MBPC presents at Montana League of Cities and Towns conference: How state budget cuts have impacted local governments

Last week, the Montana League of Cities and Towns hosted its annual conference, bringing together city managers, department staff, and local elected officials to discuss ongoing and emerging issues that our Montana cities and towns are tackling. As part of the conference, the League asked the Montana Budget and Policy Center to present on the recent cuts to the state budget and how those cuts may be impacting local governments.

Some budget cuts did result in a loss of state funds for local municipalities, most notably a reduction to state payments to cities and counties for their share of certain fees now collected by the state (this is called the Entitlement Share). But while most of the cuts made by the legislature did not directly reduce city resources, local governments across the state are feeling the pressure of deep cuts to services for those facing mental health or substance use disorders, the closure of state support offices, and the elimination of funds for preventative services and case management for adults and children with disabilities.

MBPC provided an overview of the state budget and actions taken in 2017 and 2018, and then city officials heard from three panelists about how this is playing out in their local communities.

City of Livingston HR and Administrative Services Director Lisa Lowy detailed how the City of Livingston has been impacted by state budget cuts. Livingston has experienced a disproportionate hit from budget cuts, with the closures of its job services office, the office public assistance, mental health clinic, and its county property tax assessment office. Lisa spoke to Livingston’s efforts to work with the state to maintain some services.

City of Helena Chief of Police Troy McGee shared some perspective on how cuts to services for those suffering mental illness or substance use disorders have put greater pressure on local law enforcement.

And rounding out the panel, Missoula City County Health Department Public Health Officer Ellen Leahy provided information on direct cuts they have faced in providing case management to children with severe developmental disabilities – a program that took decades to build up but funds that were eliminated in 2017.

The state budget cuts we have faced have wide-reaching impacts – not just for those receiving the funds and providing the services, but for local municipalities as well. You can find our presentation here.

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