Did Ya’all Know That Many Eastern Counties Don’t Have a School Levy?

by jhwygirl

I’ve ranted to a seemingly uninformed audience in support of Governor Schweitzer’s bill to change the way certain oil & gas revenues are distributed.

I’ve called it unfair. I’ve decried the conservatives lambasting of the proposal as further evidence of their hypocrisy towards government subsidies. I’ve complained about how it it shows an abandonment of the free market – and example of how this so-called great profitable high-paying and tons-of-jobs industry doesn’t truly support the communities from where it extracts it’s resources.

Because if there are all of these high-paying jobs, shouldn’t those high-paid employees be paying taxes that support the social infrastructure of the community?

Lee reporter Mike Dennison has a great article on the issue which includes a paragraph better summing up the message I may have failed to convey.

A handful of school districts – primarily in far eastern Montana – get millions of dollars in oil-and-gas revenue, have large financial reserves and levy zero or very few local property tax mills to support their schools.

What that oil & gas fund has done is bought the pockets of a whole bunch of legislators out east and a whole bunch of voters that don’t have to pay taxes to support their schools.

Imagine the perspective you might have if you in Missoula or in the Flathead or up in Lewis & Clark county didn’t have to pay taxes to support your schools?

Imagine the political perspective in the counties listed here if those citizens there actually had to pay “market” taxes for schools?

I’ve said a bunch of times and I’ll say it again – the mineral estate is the property of the citizens of Montana. If the state is taxing it, it belongs to everyone. It is not the property of a handful of counties with less than half of the state’s population so that they can have lower taxes and so they don’t have to support their schools.

HB136 was killed Wednesday in House Education.

It’s disgusting. It’s unfair. It’s wrong.

Governor Brian Schweitzer was correct.

On this one.

  1. mr benson

    They send 101 mills off to the state for equalization though.

    Big Sky, Willow Creek, Colstrip, these are other net payers of equalization.

    What you have expressed is greed, pure and simple. They have it, you want it. Rationalize taking it any way you want.

    But I don’t see you packin up and going to one of those oil and gas counties to live.

    If Brian Schweitzer had done such a great job of managing fiscal matters at the state level, he wouldn’t need to raid the local governments to balance his budget.

    • I would agree that those lowly populated counties need extra help for their education systems. They gotta meet minimal standards and Montana’s future deserves a quality education.

      But subsidy to the point that some counties have no school levy? Did you see the per/$ support in gubmint money going to those counties?

      Something’s wrong there.

      The “counties” aren’t net payers – the oil and gas companies are doing the real paying. Paying as in paying taxes…taxes that belong to everyone, not just a heavily prioritized few.

      The mere fact that it is solely the western counties whining loudly about this tells me it’s someone’s special grab bag.

  2. mr benson

    BTW, that 101 mills?

    It IS a school levy.

    • Are you saying that Dennison was inaccurate in his statement? That some counties collect no taxes towards schools? And others “very little”?

      • mr benson

        The 101 mills are applied to all property across the state. To the extent that Dennison’s statement contradicts that fact, he is misinformed or exaggerating.

        • OK. All counties have the 101. But most public school districts enact additional mil levy for schools, no? What I took Dennison’s paragraph to mean was that some counties don’t have to do this – because they get this oil&gas tax subsidy.

          I am unable to comprehend any reason why a private property owner in, say, Richland County (or whatever “handful of counties” that Dennison referred to, should have his or her county receive so much pork from oil&gas that the private property owner hasn’t a chance in every needing to see a school levy.

          Bonner District failed on tax levy to fix a furnace and heating problem…while Richland was expanding its fair grounds to the tune of millions – with banquet area and everything.

          Sweet for them, huh?

  3. mr benson

    As for being “seemingly uninformed”, well, I think you know better.

  4. If you want oil/gas/coal revenues, start producing them in your county and you’ll have them.

    Very simple, and very fair.

    • JC

      Geez, how dumb can you be. There is no produceable gas, oil or coal in Missoula County. Except the gas you produce when you pass through town.

  5. not from missoula

    And you wonder why people out in Eastern Montana do not like Missoula.

    • Because we point out the philosophical and ideological hypocrisies of eastern so-called small-government anti-subsidy conservatives?

      • not from missoula

        ha. I am not conservative. But come from a town where the population and property values of homes could by no means cover the cost of our school. I also came from a town where I.. not YOU, suffered the health effects of coal. And so did my family. But without coal that town, where my family has been for years would cease to exist.

        Don’t paint us all with the same brush.

        • Did you see my comments above?

          When subsidy is to the point that certain counties aren’t assessing a dime, then there’s something inherently wrong.

          Look – here’s my prediction: The state is now going to get sued on this. It’ll either be individual citizens or a handful of school districts. Or maybe both.

          The state was forced to redo the tax distribution years ago because it was distributed on a county-by-county rate. They knew it was a losing battle.

          What they’re doing here is using a different tax and doing the same darn thing.

          If I were the eastern counties, I’da not said a darn thing because it wasn’t anything permanent. Now people across the state are going to be looking at their tax bills and saying to themselves “How is this fair?”

          Oh – and those nasty effects of coal? You aren’t alone. There’s arsenic in the water down these ways, courtesy of Anaconda Copper Mining.

          Montana is the worlds largest EPA cleanup site.


  1. 1 Tweets that mention Did Ya’all Know That Many Eastern Counties Don’t Have a School Levy? « 4&20 blackbirds -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by jhwygirl and jhwygirl, Ryan Wakefield. Ryan Wakefield said: @kim_wakefield RT @jhwygirl: If I were MCPS, I'd sue the state for it's education funding formula: http://wp.me/puC4-4ac #MTleg […]

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