07 Jun 2018

Gallatin County voters have spoken that open space is important to them!

Gallatin County voters OK open space levy
By Freddy Monares Chronicle Staff Writer Jun 6, 2018

A proposition to increase taxes in Gallatin County and give more than $20 million to the county’s open space program was easily winning voter approval Tuesday night.

According to unofficial results tabulated by county officials, the vote was 13,781 votes, 62 percent, for the proposition and 8,310 votes, 38 percent, against it.

The tax increase will impact the owner of a $350,000 home $21.26 a year. In its first year, $1.147 million will go to the open space program. The rest of the money, about $143,000, will be used for improvements to the county’s Regional Park.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust Executive Director Penelope Pierce said the land trusts in the county were pleased that residents had chosen to renew their commitment to the open space program. Pierce said the investment in open lands, clean water, local agriculture and outdoor heritage is more important than ever.

“Today’s vote on the open lands measure will help ensure we continue to enjoy our great quality of life as our community continues to grow,” Pierce said.

The Gallatin County Open Lands Program began in the early 2000s with two separate voter-approved bonds totaling $20 million to finance conservation easements in the county. That money ran out last year.

Unlike the bonds that initially paid for the program, the county will only be able to use the money in its open space account, rather than borrowing and having to pay interest on it.

Another distinction between a levy compared to a bond is that residents who own agricultural land would be assessed for the increase, whereas state law excludes ranchers and farmers from being taxed for an open space bond.

Since its creation, the program has helped dedicate more than 50,000 acres to preserving open space in the county.

Gallatin County was recently ranked No. 1 in the state for new homes constructed from 1990 to 2016 in a Headwaters Economics study titled, “Montana Losing Open Space.” During the 26-year period, the study found that 17,300 new homes were constructed.

Source: Gallatin County voters OK open space levy

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