The Billings City Council approved the fiscal year budget this week, which includes cuts to the police department and fire department.
While the Fiscal Year 2020 budget is a healthy $379 million dollars, a $59 million dollar increase from last year, the general and public safety funds aren’t as in good shape.
City staff shuffled some numbers around to balance expenses, and that included cuts of roughly $2 million. The majority target fire department maintenance and the police department’s overtime budget.
On Monday night, the city council voted on the budget 9-2.
City Mayor Bill Cole voted against.
At the Chamber of Commerce's State of the City and County event Wednesday, he said by national standards, Billings is already understaffed in both the police and fire departments.
“We also need new fire stations in the Heights and in Southwest Billings. So, those are some very real problems, but we’re fighting at this point just to keep what we’ve got, not even to expand and satisfy other important needs,” says Cole.
The rate of violent crime in Yellowstone County has increased steadily from year to year, sometimes reaching 26 percent over 12 months, and the Billings Police Department puts its overtime budget toward filling patrol needs, among other things.
BPD also drew some funds from the overtime budget for a recent vice-presidential visit, which cost the department about $26,000.