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Commissioners Agree On Reduced Mills For State

With the belief that the move will benefit county property taxpayers, the Roosevelt County Commissioners agreed on Tuesday, Oct. 3, to provide the state with 77.89 mills rather than the traditional 95 mills for public education.

The resolution notes that the commissioners have determined that the correct number of mills to be levied for fiscal year 2024 for the state equalization aid is 32.90 mills, the county elementary equalization levy is 27 mills and the high school equalization levy is 18 mills.

Roosevelt County is one of many counties throughout the state that has made such a decision. County leaders note that, because of the high appraisal information, the 95 mill totals is out of line.

Roosevelt County Commissioner Gordon Oelkers explained that through the procedure, the state will receive $99 million more than in the past if counties pay 95 mills. The state will still receive $20 million more if counties pay 77.89 mills.

“It will not affect how much schools are funded,” Oelkers explained. Commissioners said the move will provide county taxpayers about a half million dollars in property tax relief.

“The state wants to basically run wild on mills,” Oelkers said.

Montana Gov. Gianforte’s administration has already filed lawsuits against some counties regarding the dispute.

According to the Montana Free Press, Gianforte administration officials noted in their legal filing that the school equalization mills were created by the Legislature decades ago in response to a lawsuit that successfully argued the state’s prior funding system failed to uphold the Montana Constitution’s guarantee of a quality education system that provides equal opportunity for each student.

Roosevelt County Commissioners explained that, if the court rules against counties, a separate tax bill would need to be sent to area taxpayers.

“The State doesn’t need the overtaxed funds,” commissioner Robert Toavs said.

The 95 mills were established by the Montana Legislature in 2001 to satisfy the State’s responsibility for equality in education. All of the funds go to the state general fund. No reduction in the 95 mills will impact schools.

For Roosevelt County, 95 mills translated to $3,015,871 in fiscal year 2023 and would be $3,102,685 in fiscal year 2024. For 77.9 mills in fiscal year 2024, the dollar amount would be $2,543,875.

For all counties combined, the increase for the amount of 95 mills would be from $338,128,784 in 2023 to $437,380,050 in 2024.

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