Weed District mill levy pitched to Pachyderms
March 20, 2017
Hill County Weed Control District Supervisor Terry Turner spoke to the Pachyderm Club Friday, making his case for a mill levy that will be on the ballot in the May 25 special election.
Turner said that if the request for new mills is granted, it should be enough to last the weed control district for another 25 to 30 years.
"I can take a dollar of these tax dollars and stretch it about three dollars out," he said.
Turner, who has worked for the Hill County Noxious Weed Control District since 1979, said his department will ask voters for up to 4 mills from the county each year. A pamphlet distributed at the talk said the increase would provide the District with up to an additional $141,760 each year based on current taxable values. If passed, the increase would mean up to an additional $5.40 in property taxes each year for a house with a market value of $100,000 and $10.80 for a house valued at $200,000.
The Hill County Public Cemetery District will also have a mill levy request for up to four mills on the same ballot to care for nine cemeteries within the county.
Both requests were defeated when they appeared on the ballot in November. The Cemetery District mill levy failed 53-47 percent, while the Weed District's mill levy was rejected 56-44 percent.
Though the district had been able to operate with its current budget until recently, Turner said an increase in noxious weeds at Beaver Creek Park brought on by several heavy flood seasons has stretched his resources thin.
"The floods and stuff have spread the weeds so fast out there we can't keep up with them," Turner said. He added that people report sightings of noxious weeds to him, but he hasn't been able to get rid of all of them due to limited manpower and a small budget.
Turner said his once-10-member staff is now three or four people and, of the budget, the $25,000 to $30,000 he used to use to purchase herbicides is now about $10,000. Increasing costs such as for fuel and maintenance have cut the percentage he can spend on herbicides. The mosquito district is also impacted, because although they have different budgets, they use the same staff, he said.
If the levy is approved, Turner said, he will use the money to help combat noxious weeds in Beaver Creek Park, update the district's equipment, detect and respond to invasive species and do some bio-control.
Weeds are not as prevalent in north-central Montana as they are in the western part of the state or neighboring Idaho, Turner said, but the key is to wipe them out early.
"Weeds are just like a fire. You want to prevent them, and you want to prevent them from becoming large infestations," he said.
The state's noxious weed list has 33 weeds, and Hill County has just added common burdock to the list Turner said.
If they are allowed to spread, Turner said, the weeds, some of which can grow up to 13 feet tall, can clog waterways and irrigation systems, siphon off nutrients from native plants and affect Montana's agriculture.
"I think I can make it work, if you can help me out," Turner said.