Mayor John Engen Presents Annual Budget to Missoula City Council
Mayor Engen emphasized the fact that inflation is ravaging cities and towns across the country and Missoula is no exception. He provided just one example of the price increases the City of Missoula is facing.
“Labor and the things we purchase to provide services to our residents cost more than they did last year, it’s as simple as that,” said Engen. “For example, the city recently bought 500 tons of chip seal oil. That program adds years to the life of our streets with regular maintenance applications. Last year, we paid $434 per ton. This year, we're paying $605 a ton, up nearly 40%.”
Engen said delayed budget choices made during the pandemic can no longer be delayed.
“The choices we need to provide relief as we navigated through the pandemic economy would result in us having to make more difficult choices later, and this is the year we're making some of those choices,” he said. “How will we responsibly ensure that we're meeting expectations for essential city services and pay for new necessary programs that reflect our values and our desires to serve a growing population of residents?”
Engen said he and his staff will do everything possible to keep from requesting capital improvements unless they are unavoidable.
“This year though, you won't hear me ask you for more staff or new programs or new equipment unless it's unsafe or more expensive to keep them in service,” he said. “Each year I get millions of dollars of requests for new funding from our department heads. In most years, we're able to afford to move forward incrementally. This year we're resetting and holding the line where we can and should be able to keep expenses down.”
Engen closed his presentation with a pragmatic acceptance of the hard times all cities in Montana are experiencing.
“In closing, what I'm presenting to you today reflects an approach that's at work today in the public and private sectors in business organizations and institutions,” he said. “We are committed to the long haul making the best choices we can in an environment that's mighty hard to understand. But, as so many have said before, this is all unprecedented to the point that there is now a shortage of crystal balls. What we lack in skills to make great predictions we more than make up for an experience, dedication, and practicality.”
Mayor Engen is currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.