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By Nolan Lister, Helena Independent Record

The Helena City Commission approved its about $100 million preliminary budget for fiscal year 2023 Monday.

Interim City Manager Tim Burton said staff included a number of priority budget items for the city commission’s consideration such as a 5.03% cost of living adjustment that will apply to nearly every city employee, a reconfiguration of health benefits and about 4.5 new full-time equivalent employees.

According to Helena Finance Director Sheila Danielson, the revenues will not exceed expenditures in fiscal year 2023, a balanced budget with the notable exception of a $400,000 transfer to the Law and Justice Center from the general fund cash reserves.


The city’s sustainability coordinator position was demoted in the organization chart from the city manager’s office to the public works department and reduced to a part-time position. Shortly thereafter, the city’s first sustainability coordinator resigned from the position.

The commission received numerous emails in the past two weeks from residents demanding the city restore the position to full time under the city manager.

The commission elected to keep the sustainability coordinator within public works. It did restore the position to full time but added coordinating the city’s recycling program to the job description to bump it back to full time.

Ian Lund, the clean energy advocate for Montana Environmental Information Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit environmental advocacy organization based in Helena, derided the city commission for its decision Monday, claiming burying the sustainability coordinator in the organization chart hampers the position’s ability to conduct the work.

“I want the commission to respect the fact that when you commit to 100% clean energy and then do nothing to move the city toward that goal, and this budget does nothing, it feels performative, it feels empty, but most importantly it doesn’t help us move forward in a state that really needs our leadership,” Lund said.

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