Montana’s ongoing budget crisis has hit Gallatin County, where state Democrats say schools, mental health and disabilities services could all be affected.
At a town hall meeting in Bozeman Tuesday, state representative Jim Hamilton, a Bozeman Democrat, says there’s a sense that people here can avoid the pain of budget cuts. So before November’s special session, he made four phone calls.
“And in just four phone calls, which took me less than fifteen minutes I came up to a million dollars worth of cuts to agencies in Bozeman," he says. "So it’s a broad problem, it exists here, and I think we needed to make that clear to you.”
During the special session, legislators passed a series of cuts and fees to make up a $227 million dollar budget shortfall.
Hamilton says the loss in funding affects local school districts, mental health and disability services in Gallatin County.
Fran Woolman is the program manager for Family Outreach in Bozeman. She says her agency will need to cut 200 slots statewide for children with disabilities. Most of those cuts will happen in eastern Montana.
“They’ve sustained less population so they’re serving less, so they were able to give up the majority of the slots for us. So here in Gallatin Valley, we are only looking at having to give up roughly two or three,” Woolman says.
Mike Waterman is the Bozeman School District’s director of business services. He says the cuts mean property taxes in the city may have to rise by $2 million dollars to help fund the schools.
Meanwhile, on another money issue at the federal level, Hamilton, along with another Bozeman Democrat, state representative Zach Brown, say the recently-passed GOP tax bill could add an estimated $60 or $70 million per year to the state’s budget deficit.
Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte and Senator Steve Daines, both Republicans, say the tax bill will provide relief to Montanans and help strengthen small businesses.