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Public safety levy will be on the November ballot

Cascade County officials consider $3.5M public safety levy
Posted at 6:02 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-20 10:36:19-04

GREAT FALLS — Cascade County commissioners on Friday, August 19, 2022, voted to approve putting a public safety levy on the November 2022 ballot.

The levy is in the amount of $2.46 million dollars annually, and would increase property taxes for county residents. The levy amount was decreased from the initial proposal of $3.52 million.

The annual increase for Cascade County residents would be about $18.90 for every $100,000 in taxable value.

If voters approve the measure in November, the money will primarily be used to meet recruitment and retention shortfalls for the Cascade County Sheriff's Office and the Cascade County Attorney’s office.

“If we don't get our places staffed appropriately and keep our numbers appropriate, it hurts public safety countywide and including the city,” said Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter. “So I think it will help tremendously not just with our own offices but enhancing the public safety of the Great Falls Police Department, Montana Highway Patrol, Fish and Game, all those other infrastructures that are dependent upon our services because we truly are the infrastructure for all the public safety in Cascade County.”

Right now, Cascade County lags behind other public safety departments in the area and across the state.

According to the county staff report submitted with the resolution, the starting salary for a CCSO deputy is 26% less than a new officer at the Great Falls Police Department.

And the starting salary of a Cascade County deputy attorney is 17% less than starting salary for the Office of Public Defender. The funding would also help with pre-trial services.

Just like the Sheriff's office, the County Attorney's office is having recruitment and retention problems.

Cascade County officials consider $3.5M public safety levy

"This doesn't give us more attorneys, it allows us to retain the attorneys we have,” said Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki. “We're down almost 20% right now. We can't prosecute crimes as effectively and that delays things and keep people out on the streets or delays treatment, quite frankly, for people who need treatment. And so that would help a lot. And then the pretrial services to be to help lower the jail population, provide those people with services in the community to help get them on a better track even before we have a trial.”

Ultimately county officials believe passing the levy is a vital step to maintain necessary services and meet the needs of a growing community.