The Shrine Circus Returns to Great Falls April 14-15

Press Release ——March 27, 2023—For Immediate Release

The Great Falls Tradition continues April 14-15 with three big rings and five big performances at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena at Montana ExpoPark. 

This is a chance to see worldwide talents including Aerialists, Daredevils, Dig and Pony Acts, and Clowns (including a local performance by the Great Falls Jolly Rogues Clowns).

Every year the local Shrine Bagpipe Band puts on the Shrine Circus here in Great Falls to give families the opportunity to experience great family entertainment. Once again local businesses will be paying for children’s tickets which will be given away at both local Albertsons the week of the Shows. The Shrine Circus also helps by raising money for the Travel fund to get families to and from the Shrine Hospital. 

There’s more to the Shrine Circus than meets the eye. For 72 years, the circus has come to town, entertaining and occupying residents of all ages. But looking beyond the acrobatics, animals, clowns and concessions, there is a rich tradition that touches everyone involved. Shriners, circus owners, performers, spectators, and local volunteers all play important roles in keeping this tradition alive. For many, it’s a role handed down over generations.

The local Shrine Circus will also offer a Commemorative Kids Program along with two FREE Plush Animal

Prizes to be given away at each performance.

Without an audience of area residents, the tradition of the Shrine Circus would not exist. Year after year the spectators come to see the show. For many, going to the circus is a family tradition. Shriners and the Circus—what a winning combination! A fraternity that is committed to children and families presenting the most complete form of family entertainment!

On behalf of all of the members of the local Shrine Circus, we thank all of you who have supported our circus through your advertising, your purchase of tickets, your encouragement year after year and your acceptance of our efforts throughout the communities in which we live, work and play with you—our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Without you, without the media support we get and without the effort of so many Shrine families and corporate supporters, we wouldn’t be here for our 61st consecutive Shrine Circus year.

For more information Contact Hope Good at (406) 868-9649

Or Bob Kampfer at (406) 788-1959.

Preserve Your Holiday Family Memories With A Local Company

Isn’t it time to preserve those treasured family video and audio memories you have on old formats like 16mm, cassette, and VHS by transferring them to modern digital formats like DVD, CD, and thumb drives?

Stray Moose Productions is a local one-stop audio-visual production, duplicating and transfer specialist.

“Why send your memories out of town when we can do it all right here in the Great Falls area?” – Stray Moose Productions

Stray Moose Productions can transfer your VHS and SVHS video tapes of movies, home movies and other content to DVD for you quickly and affordably. They are located in Black Eagle.

They also transfer 8mm and 16mm home movies to DVD, Beta to DVD, and cassette, reel-to-reel and vinyl to CD.

Stray Moose Productions also does professional video work for your special events such as weddings and memorial services.

Call 406-727-6670 or email

They are located at 3 Anaconda Hills Dr., Black Eagle, MT – next to Anaconda Hills Golf Course and across from the Black Eagle Community Center.

5 Tips for Managing Multi-State Living Arrangements With a Pet

Owning multiple homes in the United States is a dream for millions of young Americans. You can enjoy multiple climates, geographical diversity, and various lifestyle choices when you own homes in Florida and Great Falls, Montana. But what if you own a pet and live in different states? Read on for tips to manage both.

1. Have Vets in Montana and Florida 

You must keep your pet healthy as you divide your time between Montana and Florida. After all, traveling between both states can be time-consuming and stressful. The best way to guarantee your pet remains healthy is to have vets in both states. You can reduce your vet costs by purchasing an excellent pet insurance policy. However, check pet insurance coverage and considerations and the reviews of insurance providers to search for the best deals before buying. Also, use pet sitters when you’re busy and check for fleas and ticks to guarantee your animal has no problems. 

2. Ensure Your Pet Stays Comfortable in Both Homes

When you have homes in multiple states, your pet can become overwhelmed — and this could become detrimental to their overall well-being. Ensure your pet remains comfortable by buying items for both homes, such as a quality bed or crate, a cat tree, and a harness. Although customer ratings can be a valuable resource when evaluating products, look for websites with product reviews from veterinarians. That way, you can feel confident you’re buying the best products for your pet. 

3. Save Money for Unexpected Costs 

Continuously moving between Florida and Montana can be expensive over time. You’ll want to budget to ensure you have disposable income for any unexpected issues. Try cutting costs such as choosing streaming options over cable, purchasing deep freeze items to store away, and limiting unnecessary outings. If you spend half of your time in Florida and half in Montana, you can save money by finding affordable auto and health insurance in either state. 

4. Give Your Pet Plenty of Exercise 

Ensure your pet has ample exercise when moving between states. For example, there are many excellent hikes near Great Falls, and Florida has one of the most desirable climates in the United States. Take your dog for a walk in nearby national parks and on local beaches. That way, your pet will feel as normal as possible despite moving around.

5. Use Organization Apps

One of the best ways to stay organized when you have multi-state homes is by using organization apps. ClickUp is one of the most popular organization apps. It allows you to boost your productivity, plan daily tasks, and set goals. For example, you can set yourself a checklist before you travel between Montana and Florida to ensure you don’t forget anything. 

Looking After Your Pet Doesn’t Need To Be Confusing

Living between Montana and Florida doesn’t need to be complicated when you have a pet. You can make the process seamless by following the tips in the article. Visit E-City Beat for information on life in Montana.

How CPAs Can Help Your Business Grow

Whether you’ve decided to start a new business or you’re ready to take your existing business to the next level, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Many new small business owners make the mistake of thinking they can handle all of the financial aspects of their businesses themselves. While the average business owner can handle a certain amount of these tasks, it’s always better to have an experienced professional you can call on. Here are some of the things a CPA can help you with as you grow your business, brought to you by E-City Beat.

Laying Down a Strong Foundation

There’s nothing more important than starting your business the right way to ensure that all of the systems you set in place contribute to your success.

In terms of creating a strong foundation, a CPA will assist you with the following:

  • Determining the best business structure for what you’re doing, such as an LLC or sole proprietorship.
  • Analyzing the financial aspects of your business plan.
  • Help you choose accounting software that meets your needs.
  • Advising and assisting with your business bank account.
  • Ensuring that your accounting procedures are in line with government regulations and requirements.
  • Ensuring you understand the importance of maintaining separate business and personal expense accounts.

Essentially, a CPA can lay the groundwork for your business finances so that you have a blueprint to follow and refer to as you move forward with your operations.

Dealing With Ongoing Financial Tasks

Once things get going for your business, you’ll need to maintain the accounting system implemented by your CPA. However, you won’t be going at it alone as your CPA can take over the ongoing financial tasks necessary.

Some of those tasks may include:

  • Ensuring that the independent contractors you hired are classified correctly by the IRS.
  • Keeping you updated on your financial statements so that you have a thorough understanding of the nooks and crannies of your business.
  • Overseeing the payroll and payment processes for all employees.
  • Advising on the estimated tax payments you should be making throughout the year
  • Determining which employees should receive W2 and 1099 forms, and when.
  • Reviewing and finalizing your books to ensure that all your paperwork checks out before submitting your business tax returns to the IRS.

While you can do many of these tasks on your own, it’s best to delegate as many as you can to a professional.

Supporting Your Business’s Growth

When it comes time to grow your business, having a CPA on your payroll can be a critical resource as they can help you manage the entire process.

A few things they can do to support the growth of your business include:

  • Helping you determine which areas are prime for growth by providing insight on your cash flow patterns, inventory management, financing, pricing, and so on.
  • Advising you on equipment and property leasing and purchasing
  • Preventing you from getting audited by the IRS and helping you with the process should you get audited
  • Creating financial forecasts and a budget to help you make better business decisions
  • Assist you with the sale of your business if necessary

These are just a few ways that a CPA professional can work with you to help your business grow. You can choose to have them take care of all your accounting and financial tasks or just some specific ones that you’re unable to manage. Either way, they’re an asset to small business owners.

Great Falls Area Company Transfers VHS To DVD – And Much More

Stray Moose Productions is a local one-stop audio-visual production, duplicating and transfer specialist.

“Why send your memories out of town when we can do it all right here in the Great Falls area?” – Stray Moose Productions

Stray Moose Productions can transfer your VHS and SVHS video tapes of movies, home movies and other content to DVD for you quickly and affordably. They are located in Black Eagle.

They also transfer 8mm and 16mm home movies to DVD, Beta to DVD, and cassette, reel-to-reel and vinyl to CD.

Stray Moose Productions also does professional video work for your special events such as weddings and memorial services.

Call 406-727-6670 or email

They are located at 3 Anaconda Hills Dr., Black Eagle, MT – next to Anaconda Hills Golf Course and across from the Black Eagle Community Center.

Are You Making One Of These 6 Common Mistakes That Many New Business Owners Make?

Planning on entering the world of entrepreneurship in the near future? If so, you’ll be in excellent company. Recent data shows that over 500,000 new businesses are created each month. In the U.S., tens of millions of individuals can currently call themselves business owners. Whether they run a brick-and-mortar or an online boutique, new individuals become entrepreneurs each and every day.

If you’re ready to become a small business owner yourself, there is a steep learning curve ahead. However, certain lessons are more important to learn than others. Here are six common (and preventable) mistakes that many new entrepreneurs make.

Not selecting the correct business entity

Choosing the right business entity/structure is more important than you may believe. Oftentimes, new entrepreneurs will simply stick with a sole proprietorship filing. Although this selection can occasionally be an appropriate choice, it can cost you big time in the long run.

Instead consider registering your business as an LLC, which has a number of exceptional advantages. Among these benefits are tax breaks and reduced paperwork. One of the biggest benefits is the protection an LLC provides your personal finances. In the event of a lawsuit or uncollected business debt, entrepreneurs with LLCs cannot have their personal assets taken from them. Prior to forming an LLC, be sure to review all state-specific rules and regulations.

Doing business “under the table”

A shocking number of business owners conduct business illegally. Home-based business owners — and those with physical locations — will sometimes fail to file the proper paperwork for inspections, a sales tax permit, and a business license.

Even if you plan to run a business as a hobby, do not conduct your transactions “under the table.” While some justify this practice by citing that others do this, make sure that you are doing everything 100% legally. Selling products without proper licensing or inspections can lead to massive fines and jail time.

Not spending enough time on branding

Creating brand awareness among potential customers is critical to separating yourself from the competition. Your website, social media pages, business name, and logo are all essential to attracting and retaining customers.

While some tasks such as web design are best handled by qualified professionals, you can discover unique business names by using a business name generator. You can also use a logo creator online to design an attractive logo. Once you’ve downloaded and customized your logo, you can add it to merchandise, marketing materials, business cards, and much more.

Forgetting to plan for emergency expenses

Just as with your personal life, emergency expenses can (and often do) arise when running a new business. Unexpected fees and broken equipment are only some of the many expenses that can arise without warning.

Avoid having to take out loans or business credit cards by setting aside a separate emergency fund. Plan to save between $1,000-$1,500, as this amount can cover some of the most common expenses. From repairs to anything else that may come up, you can avoid significant financial setbacks.

Working too many hours

Many new entrepreneurs treat their bodies and minds like machines. With so many tasks and expectations, it is common for business owners to work 60, 70, or even more than 80 hours per week. Although this may be necessary at select times, overworking yourself should never become a habit. Just because you own a business does not mean that you’ve developed superhuman abilities. Rest and leisure are as important as they were before launching your new venture.

Prevent burnout by scheduling regular time off and self-care each week. You can create a monthly planner to stay on track with your tasks and schedule downtime as well. There are customizable monthly planner templates that allow you to add your own graphics, sticky notes, and videos.

Spreading yourself too thin

Last but not least, new business owners have a reputation for spreading themselves too thin. On top of working too many hours, they often release a vast product/service list that isn’t defined. If this sounds like you, narrow down your offerings so that you’re selling what you do best. Expand only when you’ve mastered the basics of business ownership.

Avoiding these six common mistakes is key to running a successful business. Beyond this list, treat every other mistake as a learning experience. Rather than getting upset at yourself, learn from every bump along the way.

E-City Beat explores various issues and their effects on Great Falls and Montana residents.

Local EMT Training Available

Montana is very short on EMS personnel and Whiteline Consulting and Training has stepped up to help get EMTs into services!

Whiteline has EMT courses throughout Montana, yes you heard that right – throughout! They have dedicated instructors who travel to bring EMT courses to Montana areas.

Whiteline has a course coming up in Vaughn, MT at the Vaughn Fire Hall starting June 2nd every Thursday and Friday night from 6pm to 9:30pm and every other Saturday 9am to 4pm.

This course is all in person and hands on; the cost of the course is $900 plus the cost of the book, but don’t panic over the course cost because they have a payment plan that is set for each person’s needs! They strive to create educated, strong and compassionate EMTs to bring to all Montana communities far and wide. This is a unique course and the reason I say unique is because this company brings in guest speakers to help further students education into pre-hospital care.

The instructors make sure to go into depth about depression, suicide, ptsd and mental health. Why? Because Montana is in the top 5 for suicide rates…Whiteline is here to bring back compassion and understanding to the EMS world again. If you have any questions or if you are curious you can check out the website and email them at

Whiteline wants everyone to know that past and future EMS students throughout Montana are amazing and some of the bravest out there. Take into consideration they are taking these courses during a pandemic; they are coming to the front lines with no hesitation.

The EMS world is hard and can be dark at times but for them to want to help and care for others is an amazing quality. Becoming an EMT is one of the most rewarding professions.

Being able to help others in the worst times of their life and being that calming, compassionate and trusting person to bring light to their darkness. EMTs aren’t there for the pay or fame; they are there because they want to be. They are there to help, to care, to connect and most of all lighten the darkness that the patient is in. Being able to connect with a stranger and bring a smile or a small chuckle to their face is an amazing feeling.

Being in EMS isn’t always trauma; it’s being someone the patient can trust knowing they have someone that will truly listen to them and believe them, being the shoulder and listening ear when dying sounds better then living. It’s knowing they can call 911 and trust having complete strangers help them. It’s knowing that they will be safe and heard.

Being an EMT isn’t just a job or lifestyle or just training to help….it’s a passion for compassion towards others.

Comment Of The Day

The Tribune finally caught up to the Tracy Houck, CDBG funding story, but the reporter didn’t have nuthin’ on this commenter:

Robert Tyler

Great Falls, Montana

How can Houck claim to be personally handling this issue because of concern about the privacy protections of a male employee while in tandem exposing the sexual harassment complaint and negative performance evaluations of her former employee Wolfe?

This action by Houck has a retaliatory smell to it, I would guess whoever handles PGS or GFPS legal defenses wishes Houck would have delegated and the delegate brought it to light with a little less public vetting of the details.

How does Sexe saying that the re-evaluation by the CDC was required until the PGS allocation was not zero make the process fair? Correcting an alleged anti-PGS bias by removing Wolfe yet leaving in place other CDC board members who were contacted on the behalf of a sitting commissioner to complain about the results does nothing but create a pro-PGS bias. The whole process stinks of suspicion due to Houck’s mishandling of all of her positions and the city attorney’s pro-PGS allocation statement. I see no reason why Sexe thinks the city would be at risk of PGS litigation due to the improper behavior of the PGS director. It seems the best result would be for the CDC results to be tossed as spoiled and either a new board established or the remaining commissioners come to their own conclusions.

Burrow’s sentiment of not wanting anything to do with the “backroom deals” is the proper and adult way out. Eliminating the PGS allocation for this year because of the improper actions of their director revolving around an ex-PGS employee is proper. Houck should have vetted Wolfe during the Jan 17, 2017 commission meeting when Houck voted on new appointments, had opportunity to see Wolfe’s name and was given the public opportunity to comment. Instead Houck remained quiet and voted to confirm committee members who would later vote to allocate her employer money.

Fred Burow On City’s CDBG Funding: “I Think It’s A Black Eye On Us”

If you skipped last week’s City Commission meeting (like the Great Falls Tribune did), then you missed a real doozy.

Unreported by local media, City Commissioner Fred Burow unloaded on the proposed Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding process at the April 18 meeting:

“I have a lot of heartburn with this… I think the whole process should be called into question and reevaluated, personally, because of a conflict of interest complaint, apparently… there are other members on the CDC that are recipients of funds out of this deal… It does give a very bad appearance from the word go when you have people that are receiving the funds making decisions on who gets the funds.”

Commissioners accepted the proposed CDBG funding for 2017/2018 and set a public hearing on the matter for May 16. Within the Public Facilities portion of the agenda, Paris Gibson Square (PGS) is set to receive $27,927. However, on February 23, the Community Development Council, which recommends the allocations, agreed to deny any funding to PGS. The February 23 CDC meeting was supposedly the final meeting on these allocations.

Then, on April 3, the CDC met again and the allocations for Public Facilities changed. Now PGS is on the docket to receive the $27,927. What changed and why?

This question was partially answered at the April 18 City Commission meeting. During Commission discussion, City Attorney Sara Sexe explained there had been a complaint from an applicant for Public Facilities funding about a potential conflict with a CDC member. Sexe said she determined there could be an appearance of such a conflict along with a procedural issue and decided it would be best to reconvene the CDC to again review the presentations on those projects.

So who filed the complaint, when was it filed, and what was the nature of the complaint?

The following exchange between Commissioner Fred Burow and City Attorney Sara Sexe at the April 18 Commission meeting offered some glimpse of what had happened:

Burow: “You had a complaint. Who filed the complaint, may I ask?”

Sexe: “It was one of the applicants.”

Burow: “I asked who?”

Sexe: “Paris Gibson Square.”

Burow: “And they originally were turned down for a grant… for $38,000… I did hear some of that, probably not all of the discussion on it, but I did hear some of it, and it didn’t seem that anyone on that committee had anything against Paris Gibson or anything of that nature; it was just more of, they didn’t think that project was a viable project at the time. They just didn’t recommend it.

“So now to find out we have a whole new thing here, and what really is hard for me to go along with this it that when we have a City Commissioner that works for Paris Gibson and it’s not in a janitorial position — if I remember right, it’s CEO or something of that nature, who says hey, we’ve got to file a complaint here because something wasn’t done right and we didn’t get our allotment here or our grant.

“Not to say that that happened but that’s the perception that I see coming out of this from the public. And that’s what I’m concerned about is the perception of it. But then to see that, oh, we went back and rediscussed that and um, hmmm, we did decide to give them $27,927. I can’t quite get over that from the perception point of it.

“I think it’s a black eye on us; I do not intend to support it. I just, like I said, it just looks like a black eye. I’m sure in the public’s mind, we’ll see quite a lot of comments in the paper in the coming days about backroom deals and things of that nature, and I just refuse to have any part of that.”

Sexe went on to say that no matter who had made such a complaint, the same action would have been taken to try to remove the alleged conflict.

While Sexe is simply doing her job as City Attorney, the public heard nothing else about this (was there an actual conflict or was it hearsay?), about specifically who submitted the complaint, as well as the substantive nature of the complaint. Where’s the transparency?

But according to a records request passed on to me by a citizen, Commissioner Houck did some substantial whining in a March 13 email to City Manager Greg Doyon, accusing myriad others of having their own conflicts. In “two wrongs make a right” fashion, Houck, the PGS Director, leads her email:

“I have been hesitant to weigh in on this issue since the organization I work applied.” [sic]

She also takes aim at Kelly and Neil Fortier of NeighborWorks:

“The other issue I feel insulting is that NeighborWorks, the City and GFDA were proposed to have large surplus grants. The Mayor sits as a board member to GFDA. Neil Fornier [sic], a member of the CDC is a staff person at NeighborWorks.”

But the real problem in Houck’s eyes is CDC member Harmony Wolfe:

“Lastly, I would like more than Harmony present for an update. My last communication from Harmony indicated that she was considering a potential lawsuit to the Square and the GFPS.”

Here’s her entire email:

Twenty six minutes later, Doyon emailed Sexe, telling her, “I’ll visit with you on these concerns.”

At the Commission meeting, the public was told that the conflict of interest exists on the CDC and involves an unpaid community volunteer (Wolfe). So, is Houck’s email the complaint Sexe and Burow are referring to? It sure looks like it. And if so, it warrants mentioning that Houck protested only after PGS was denied funding.

To be fair, maybe Wolfe’s presence on the CDC did pose a conflict. Still, what about the conflict of interest involving a City Commissioner working behind the scenes to advocate for the organization that cuts her checks? Does it not matter because no one bothered to complain about it? Houck can have a fiduciary responsibility to the Square, or to the City, but not to both.

I have no doubt that Sara Sexe, along with the rest of City staff, handled this matter with integrity and did the best they could with this self-dealing. Unfortunately, Houck’s behavior here is nothing new. According to the Great Falls Tribune, she unsuccessfully attempted to donate remaining contributions from her 2015 campaign to the Square — again, the (partially taxpayer-funded) organization that pays her salary. A look at her City Commission Facebook page reveals countless shares and promotions of PGS events and business. Add it all up and one wonders: What does Houck really care about… representing all of us, or leveraging her City office for personal and professional gain?

Commissioner Burow deserves a Rhetorical Pulitzer Prize for publically exposing a pervasive issue that City government entities would like to hide under the bed: conflicts of interest.

Tryon: Wages, Population Stagnant; City Taxes And Utilities Up

With the City of Great Falls moving past the financial fiasco of the $5,553,054 bailout (decrease in unassigned General Fund balance) in 2013 to cover the electric power business (see City 2014 CAFR Financial section, p. 14), the City’s financial position has improved, but the needs of the City are still great.

The façade of the Civic Center needs fixing. It’s a big ticket item and the money has to come from somewhere. City staff reports that costs to repair the Civic Center are estimated in the $6 – 8 million dollar range.

City officials are also discussing a “need” to increase legal staff and increase staff workspace. And then there is the recently passed Park and Recreation Master Plan, which cost the City $89,970 to produce, as reported in October of 2015.

As E-City Beat reported on February 17, from the City Manager’s packet: “After discussion about implementation of the Park Master Plan, it was the consensus of the Commission to pursue a Park Maintenance District, but agreed that the fees imposed should be reasonable and not include golf or the Natatorium. Manager Doyon suggested that a more robust maintenance fee may result in more money in the general fund to support public safety and ultimately less cost to the public versus a public safety levy. The Commission concurred.”

Manager Doyon gets it: how far can we stretch our property tax dollars? How many more increases, beyond the ever-seeking public school administration and the Great Falls Development Authority, can fixed income and lower income families bear?

The City routinely raises annual property taxes under the inflationary percentage allowed by State law, which is one-half of the average rate of inflation for the prior 3 years. For the 2016-17 budget year, that rate was .67 percent. Here is a brief description of the 198.24 mill levy passed by the City Commission for the budget year 2016-17, as taken from Resolution 10152

Section 1. – Determination of Mill Levy Limit

  • Appendix A shows the determination of the total mill levy limit of 167.26 mills.
  • An additional 26.14 “Permissive Medical Levy” is allowed under 15-10-420(9)(a)(vi) for increased health insurance premiums not included in the Appendix A calculation.
  • An additional 1.90 mills is allowed under 15-10-420(2) for additional voter supported mills. On November 4, 2003, a $2.5 million general obligation bond was approved by voters for construction of a soccer park. It has been determined that 1.90 mills for soccer park debt service payments is needed for Fiscal Year 2017.
  • Lastly, an additional 2.94 mills is allowed under 15-10-420(2) for additional voter supported mills. On November 7, 2006, a $2.27 million general obligation bond was approved by voters for repair and improvement of city pool facilities. It has been determined that 2.94 mills for swimming pool debt service payments is needed for Fiscal Year 2017.

The 20-year soccer park bonds were issued in June 2004. The 10-year pools facilities bonds were issued in May 2007, expiring after this year.

To provide a snapshot of yearly property tax levies, here is a rundown for Great Falls over the past 7 years (information from annual property tax increase and mill levy requests to City Commission):

Year Base Mill Levy Permissive

Med Levy

Soccer Park Pools Facilities TOTAL Base Inflationary % increase taken Perm


Infl %

2010-11 152.94 15.54 2.45 3.83 173.10 0 1.06
2011-12 164.27 15.44 2.56 3.72 183.24 0 0?
2012-13 169.13 17.93 2.58 3.93 193.57 1.2 1.4
2013-14 172.19 20.06 2.57 3.92 198.74 1.03 1.3
2014-15 175.77 22.87 2.82 3.62 205.08 1.03 1.25
2015-16 162.17 23.03 1.97 3.12 190.29 .67 2.17
2016-17 167.26 26.14 1.90 2.94 198.24 .5 2.48

The base mill levy is a formula regulated by the State under MCA 15-10-420. A portion of that code reads:

“The maximum number of mills that a governmental entity may impose is established by calculating the number of mills required to generate the amount of property tax actually assessed in the governmental unit in the prior year based on the current year taxable value, less the current year’s newly taxable value, plus one-half of the average rate of inflation for the prior 3 years.

    (b) A governmental entity that does not impose the maximum number of mills authorized under subsection (1)(a) may carry forward the authority to impose the number of mills equal to the difference between the actual number of mills imposed and the maximum number of mills authorized to be imposed. The mill authority carried forward may be imposed in a subsequent tax year.”

The result of the mill levy increase over the years results in a continual increase by the City in property taxes with the exception of 2015-16. And while the base mill levy for this year, 2016-17, is just under the rate of 2013-14, property taxes have increased with increases in streets, lighting districts, the boulevard district and the permissive medical levy. It is evident by the statistics on the permissive medical levy that government regulation of the health care industry has done nothing to stop the rising costs of medical care and insurance, an issue both the public school system and the county are also dealing with.

Additionally to property taxes, city utility rates have increased each year. While these increases may be necessary to maintain critical infrastructure, many citizens in this town do not get cost of living increases or annual raises, and often work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Increases in taxes and services for them means a decrease in other household spending.

To provide a snapshot of just one area of yearly increases, here are the basic utility service increases for Great Falls over the past 7 years and this year’s proposed increases (information taken from annual utility rate increase requests to City Commission):

2010: water 5%; sewer 7.5%

2011: water 5%; sewer 7.5%

2012: water nearly 5%; sewer nearly 10%

2013: water 5%; sewer 10%

2014: water 5%

2015: water 7%; sewer 3%; storm drain 10%.

2016: water 10%; sewer 3%; storm drain 10%

2017 (proposed) water 10%; sewer 3%; storm drain 10%

You get the picture. Are utility increases now a standard and a FOREVER thing? And when did these annual rate increases actually begin? Are we trying to outclass other cities in Montana with our rates? The conundrum is that infrastructure in communities across America is aging, is costly to repair and update, and is becoming more costly with federal regulations.

The City Commission set a public hearing date of May 2, 2017 to address the proposed utility increases for this year to be effective in June. There would be public outcry if the same annual increases were applied to gas and electric rates.

Take a drive around areas of town in the summer and you see more and more dried up lawns. Seniors and low income families water their lawns less as the cost of water services increase.

The answer to the tax dilemma is complicated. Taxes and utility fees are a necessary component of suburban living. In comparing the tax climate of Great Falls to other major Montana cities, Great Falls appears to be reasonable in how much taxes are levied on the average homeowner.

What Great Falls really needs is an expanding tax base to ease the burden on individual property owners. That means more and better paying jobs. The more property owners and business owners there are to spread the wealth of tax burden, the less impact tax increases have on each individual. The more TIFs and tax breaks given to select projects, the more the average Joe tax payer has to provide for every aspect of the community, city, schools and county included.