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Organizations offer to work on budget shortfall

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News from MLCT, MACo

The Montana League of Cities and Towns (MLCT) and the Montana Association of Counties (MACo) weighed in on the state’s budget crisis last week. 

Both nonpartisan, nonprofit associations delivered letters to Gov. Bullock and legislative leadership this morning offering to work together to help solve the current funding shortfall. “As local governments, our members are responsible for providing important police and fire protection services to our communities; ensuring access to and maintenance of clean water, wastewater treatment, roads, and other community infrastructure; and managing complicated budgets with fluctuating revenues and increasing costs,” wrote MLCT President John Williams, mayor of the City of Colstrip. “Our members face an uneasy reality that our communities may no longer have the resources they need to keep up with our burgeoning economic growth.” 

Both local government organizations expressed concerns that many of the proposed cuts to state programs will simply shift the financial burden to local governments and their local property taxpayers. Many of the cuts transfer state agency expenses from general fund to so-called enterprise funds, to be backfilled with increased fees and charges paid by local governments and the private sector. Such transfers are proposed for corrections, financial reporting and auditing, solid waste, and tax appeal programs. 

“In advance of any special session, the Executive Committee of MACo offers our assistance in identifying solutions to the current funding crisis facing our State. In partnership with the League of Cities and Towns, we believe that discussions with the governor’s office, leadership in the House and Senate, and MACo will result in proposals that will minimize the disproportionate impacts of spending reductions on those most vulnerable and avoid the unintended consequences of funding cuts that disproportionately shift the burden onto local property taxpayers,” wrote MACo President Bill Barron, who is a Lake County commissioner. 

Williams further wrote in letter to Gov. Bullock, “The MLCT Board of Directors has affirmatively voted to urge you to call a special session so that all affected stakeholders can work together in a non-partisan manner to determine the best path forward for all Montanans … At this point, a special session is not only the right thing for our elected officials to do; our communities are depending on it.”

For more information, MLCT President John Williams can be reached at 406-749-6009 and MACo President Bill Barron can be reached at 406-871-2172.

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