Overview

For more information regarding required hearings and public participation opportunities, along with more details about the voter review timeline, please see 7-3-171 through 7-3-193 MCA.
 
 
"Article XI, Section 9 (of the 1972 Montana Constitution) mandated that the legislature establish procedures that would require every unit of county and municipal government to undergo periodic citizen review of the structures of their local government. This Local Government Review process was unprecedented in the United States and remains, after more than three decades and four complete Voter Review cycles, a truly distinctive characteristic of the Montana political landscape and, arguably, one of the most important innovations in modernizing the performance and accountability of local government in the twentieth century (and beyond)."
 - Dr. Kenneth Weaver, Montana's Local Government Review  
 

 

 

Watch the Q2 Billings interview with Dan Clark on Montana's Voter Review process: "Montana voters have chance to review their local governments in June elections"

Resolution Information  

According to 7-3-173, MCAALL county and municipal governments must pass a resolution every ten years that calls for an election on the question of conducting a local government review and establishing a study commission. This resolution must be passed and submitted to the County Elections Administrator by March 11, 2024and the question will subsequently appear on the ballot at the primary election held on June 4, 2024. The ballot language is mandated by 7-3-175, MCA .

 

Sample County Election Resolution

Sample Municipal Election Resolution

 

If the voters decide in favor of conducting a local government review, the study commissioners will be elected during the general election on November 5, 2024 pursuant to 7-3-176, MCA.  After the study commission completes its work, their proposed changes will be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide by the general election of November 2026.

 

Your Resolution calling for the election must specify the number of members to be elected and must include the dollar amount or number of mills that will be permissively levied to fund the activities of the Study Commission.  Statute used to specify that 2-mills would be levied but that provision was amended in 1999 to make the levy "Subject to 15-10-420" which meant that the study commission had to be funded out of existing sources.  That provision was repealed in 2007 and language was added to say: "the local government may levy mills in excess of all other mill levies authorized by law to fund the appropriation for the support of the study commission" so the amount you include in the Resolution and Ballot language may be locally determined and is outside of your 15-10-420 levy limit.  Any money remaining in the Study Commission Fund at the end of the two year cycle reverts to the municipality's general fund.

 

To assist you in developing a budget, here are some anticipated costs associated with the process:

1.      Local Government Review Study Commission Training sponsored by the MSU Local Government Center, will take place in December 2024. This training will teach the commissioners the role and scope of their position. More information about this training will be available soon.
Please note: The cost of the training registration, travel, lodging and per diem is the responsibility of each local government.  
2.     Printing costs for reports, clerical support, community open houses, community surveys, etc.
3.     Additional training/consultants - the LGC will be available to provide local training during the review process at the current half-day training fee + travel expenses. 

More information regarding the Voter Review process will be presented in the coming months.  If you have additional questions, don't hesitate to contact the MSU Local Government Center.

 

 
Useful Information  

 

Montana Local Government Structure Options (PDF) COMING SOON

According to 7-3-173, MCAALL county and municipal governments must pass a resolution every ten years that calls for an election on the question of conducting a local government review and establishing a study commission. This resolution must be passed and submitted to the County Elections Administrator by March 11, 2024, and the question will subsequently appear on the ballot at the primary election held on June 4, 2024.  The ballot language is mandated by 7-3-175, MCA . 

 

If the voters decide in favor of conducting a local government review, the study commissioners will be elected during the general election on November 5, 2024 pursuant to 7-3-176, MCA.  After the study commission completes its work, their proposed changes will be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide in the general election in November 2026.

 

The resolution calling for the election must specify the number of members to be elected and must include the dollar amount OR number of mills that will be permissively levied to fund the activities of the Study Commission.  Statute used to specify that 2-mills would be levied but that provision was amended in 1999 to make the levy "subject to 15-10-420", which meant that the study commission had to be funded out of existing sources.  That provision was repealed in 2007 and language was added to say: "the local government may levy mills in excess of all other mill levies authorized by law to fund the appropriation for the support of the study commission". The amount to be included in the Resolution and Ballot language may be locally determined and is outside of your 15-10-420 levy limit.  Any money remaining in the Study Commission Fund at the end of the two year cycle reverts to the municipality's general fund.

To assist you in developing a budget, here are some thoughts on how to determine the dollar amount to include in the resolution:

 

  • When deciding the dollar amount to include in the ballot, the statute says "OR" .  So choose either a dollar amount or a mill value but NOT both
  • Number of study commissioners - In 2004, the typical study commission size was 3-5 members.  Missoula County and City of Missoula both had 7 and the largest commission was Butte/Silverbow at 9. Several smaller communities elected 5 commissioners (i.e. Walkerville, Virginia City and Sunburst) while some larger communities had only 3 commissioners (i.e. Dillon, Whitefish, Livingston). Five commissioners is a good size.  It could become overwhelming for 3 volunteers to meet the demands and expectations of the review process and 7-9 could become unwieldy and a challenge to manage. See 7-3-177, MCA for more information on the composition of the study commission.
  • Annual budget - when the commissioners take office 10 days after they have been elected/appointed, 7-3-179, MCA, they will need to prepare an annual budget to support their deliberations.  Make sure you have appropriated sufficient funds for Study Commission expenses in the FY24/25 budget for the duration of the voter review cycle (2024 - 2026).
    • When calculating the expenses, we highly recommend that you budget for the cost of sending the Study Commission to a Local Government Review Study Commission Regional Workshop in December 2024, which will provide training on the role and scope of the study commission. More information on the training will be available in the coming weeks. The cost of the training, travel, lodging and per diem is the responsibility of each local government
  • In addition to the number of Study Commissioners, you will need to appoint an ex-officio member to represent the city/town and to liaise with the commission. This person is encouraged to participate in all trainings and should be included in the calculations when determining the dollar/mill value.
  • Include a budget for 2 separate elections: 1) the election of study commissioners; 2) the adoption by the voters of the alternative form or plan of government recommended by the study comission.
  • Include printing costs for reports, clerical support, community open houses, community surveys, etc.

 

In summary, if you have 5 commissioners + 1 ex-officio member you will need to budget for the following:

1.      Roundtrip mileage from your city/town to regional training location, meals (state rate), registration, hotel ($120/ea/night 1-3 nights depending on distance) for each study commissioner;
2.      The cost for additional training/consultants (current half-day LGC rate + travel for LGC staff);
3.      The cost of 2 general elections;
4.      Printing cost for reports, community open houses, community surveys, administrative support, etc. 

Any money remaining in the Study Commission Fund at the end of the two-year cycle reverts to the county or municipality's general fund. 

December 2024 - Regional Study Commissioner Workshops hosted by the MSU Local Government Center. The trainings will be held at locations TBD around the state and will include a full-day training agenda.

 

The agenda will include the following topics:

  • Issues Confronting Montana's Local Governments
  • Local Government Forms and Powers
  • Break-out sessions to discuss the Structures, Powers, Strengths and Challenges of Alternative Forms of Local Government
    • County Commission Form
    • Commission-Executive Form
    • Commission-Manager Form
  • An overview of Study Commission Procedures and Study Techniques
  • Why and How to Write a Charter
  • Service Consolidation Issues and Supplementary Reports
  • Report Writing
  • Voter Review: Lessons Learned from 2014

 

 

Jurisdictions  

Montana is currently experiencing the seventh Voter Review cycle: 2024 - 2026.The following jurisdictions below have voted to participate in the current cycle. 

Counties

TBD in June 2024

Municipalities

TBD in June 2024

 

 

 
RESOURCES  
 
 

Adobe Connect

 

Voter Review Webinar 

By Dan Clark, Director, Local Government Center

COMING SOON

 

MT Gov Review 2007

 

 

Montana's Local Government Review 
(Revised Edition 2008)

Kenneth L. Weaver and Judith A. Mathre


This work documents the recommendations and electoral outcomes of every county and municipal Voter Review study commission for all four cycles of Montana's local government review. Also included is an analysis and comparison of local government forms, functions and powers as well as sample charters for each type of local government. Cost $25.00 + $3.00 shipping/handling. 

 

To purchase, please call the Local Government Center: (406) 994-6694