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Editorial Board
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
May 24, 2024

When the Gallatin County Commission met to finalize the results from the special purpose district and school election, it confirmed what we already knew: Local taxpayers have had enough.

School districts asked voters for money in 13 levies in the May 7 election. The asks ranged from general fund requests to building levies in the Belgrade and Monforton school districts. People rejected all but five of those requests. Two were general fund levies in Bozeman, which hasn’t balked at a levy request in 41 years. One was in Big Sky, which asked for a modest amount to teacher pay. The other two — in West Yellowstone and Cottonwood School District — passed by narrow margins. Just 14 votes made the difference for Cottonwood.

It’s no mystery why taxpayers are in revolt. Residential property taxes for most people in Gallatin County went up by anywhere from 21% to 39%. Property values spiked during the pandemic. The Department of Revenue alerted lawmakers before the 2023 legislative session that the homeowner property tax rate needed to be lowered from 1.35% to 0.94% to avoid sticker shock after the statewide biannual property reappraisal.

Gov. Greg Gianforte and the legislature’s Republican supermajority broke with about 40 years of tradition and declined to do so. The move lifted $110 million in taxes from industrial and corporate properties and dropped it on the backs of Montana homeowners. It’s no mystery who’s to blame for this slow-motion train wreck.

The only unknowns are why Gianforte and the legislature wanted to make life harder for everyday Montanans and how many more local public services will suffer because of their choice.

In the meantime, students and teachers in school districts around the county will continue to deal with a lack of resources and outdated, too-small buildings.

Our state leadership could have done something to prevent this fiasco and did not. Montanans deserve better.