Montanans can soon vote to review their county and municipal governments

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jan 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 11:56:05-05

GREAT FALLS — 2024 is the perfect time to learn more about your county and municipal government. Every ten years Montana law requires that citizens have the opportunity to vote on whether or not they want to review the structure of their local government.

Montana has 56 counties and 127 cities and towns; these are known as municipalities. Each county, city, and town will vote, yes or no, to implement this review. However, it does come with a price tag. Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs estimates that the study commission will cost $100,000 for Cascade County; while City Manager of Great Falls, Greg Doyon, estimates a $150,000 price tag for the city.

“It would be a special levy that is passed with the review itself,” Briggs explained.

This means you, the voter, would pay. If your town, city, or county votes yes to the study, voters in those areas would foot the bill. The cost goes towards office space, supplies, and paying other parties that will come in to assist the reviewers.

Each town, city, and county has their own form of government. Cascade County has a commission form of government. The commission form includes three commissioners elected county wide. The three have to reside in a specific district that is as geographically and population balanced as possible. The position is partisan, meaning the commissioners who run do align with a specific political party.

The commissioner’s job is to directly control 13 different departments as listed. Briggs also stated, “We also oversee jointly the library in Cascade with their Library Board and the County Extension Office with MSU Extension."

  • Accounting Department
  • Aging Services
  • Budget and Grants Department
  • City County Health Department
  • Commission Office
  • Elections Department
  • Emergency Management Services
  • Human Resources
  • Information Services
  • Juvenile Detention Center
  • Montana Expo Park
  • Planning and GIS
  • Public works

The city of Great Falls on the other hand has a strong manager commissioner form of government. This form of government is made up of four city commissioners and a mayor. Greg Doyon, Great Falls City manager, was hired by the commissioners to do the day-to-day activities of the city. This includes carrying out their policies and conducting daily operations.

“They’re the legislative arm of government, they do policy. I’m the executive, and then we actually have a judicial branch of government here too; municipal court, we have an elected judge,” Doyon explained.

Here’s the timeline:

· June 2024 citizens vote yes or no to conduct a study review of their local government and agree to the cost of the study.

· If the city, town, or county votes yes, volunteers will run to be a part of the study commission.

· November 2024 citizens will elect the 5 to 7 individuals who will be a part of the study commission.

· For the next year or so the study commission will review the current form of government and all other forms of government. They will hold public meetings, take comments and suggestions from residents.

· By the end of 2026 there will be another vote for citizens to either accept or reject the changes the study commission has proposed.

“I think it’s great for the citizens to get engaged. A lot of people don’t understand the form of government and what it offers, and what the pros and cons may be depending on what your position is. I think it’s good to ask the voters whether or not they like how their local government is functioning,” Doyon stated.