If you don’t know anything about the county splitting that occurred in the 1910s and 1920s, you’ll be at a serious disadvantage when the time comes to join the counties back together. Buy my book Hustlers and Homesteaders so you can be informed. That is of course if you plan on sitting at the table in the coming years.
Let’s compare both Missoula and Petroleum Counties to see if we can see what it means to be a large county, and what it means to be a small county.
- Petroleum County gets just $29,063 in tuition tax cuts because they only send 15 students to the Montana University System. Missoula County, on the other hand, gets $9.04 million because it sends 4,667 students to the university system.
- Both counties get the exact same in Community Development Block Grants, $450,000. This is an area where you cut that and you use that as your carrot and stick for getting deals on the bills you need. Why is this even in the budget? I see no reason why a small county, population-wise, needs as much money as a large county like Missoula. No reason, that is, unless you want to play on my side of the fence.
- Missoula County is currently getting $10 million in Long Range Building, but Petroleum County is only getting…well, it’s getting $0. It’s also not getting the $750,000 in Renewable Resource Grants/Loans that Missoula is. Bummer for them, huh?
- Small Business Tax Cuts in Petroleum County only amount to $101,662, while Missoula County they’re getting $3.62 million.
- Total Infrastructure Investment in Petroleum County is $3.1 million while in Missoula County it’s $129.2 million.
- Fergus County;
- Phillips County;
- Garfield County;
- Rosebud County;
- Musselshell County.
The most sensible thing to do is join Petroleum County with Fergus County, since that’s what it was broken off from in 1925. This was the last county created, so it’s the best to start with first. Remember, an error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.
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The best approach is to have neighboring county meetings to discuss these issues so those people living there can figure out the best way to join back together. The main incentive for them to do this, of course, is lower taxes.
Since we’ll have a lot less government infrastructure to maintain, our costs will go down. Because we’re asking a lot of these counties, we need to make this deal very good for them. That way future Montana generations can benefit a great deal, including, and perhaps especially, those in the newly-joined counties.
So what does this look like for those other counties? Let’s explore:
- Fergus County: Here’s another case where we’re giving $2.08 million for Treasure State Endowments, $375,000 for Renewable Resource Grants/Loans, and $4.7 million for Highway Funds. We invest $64 million in infrastructure here and give $824,473 in small business tax cuts. For education, Fergus sends 312 students to the MUS for $604,500 in savings. Schools are getting $11.5 million in investments.
- Garfield County: Here we’re giving $500,000 for Endowments, $250,000 for Renewables, and $787,353 for Highways. Total infrastructure spending is $8.2 million and small business tax cuts are $233,155. Just 38 students head to the MUS for $73,625 in savings, and we give this county $1.8 million for schools.
According to the Montana Association of Counties (MACo):
- Fergus County had 11,501 people in 2013;
- Garfield County had 1,290;
- Petroleum County had 506;
- Musselshell County had 4,629;
- Rosebud County had 9,329;
- Phillips County had 4,179.
Taken together, those counties have 31,434 people. If you only consider Fergus, Garfield and Petroleum Counties, they have 5,975 people. Still, we’re spending:
- $75.63 million on Infrastructure;
- $1.15 million on Small Business Tax Cuts;
- $14.38 million on Schools.
That’s a total of $91.17 million, or $15,259.47 for each person living in those three counties.
Folks, this is unsustainable. If we weren’t giving so many counties so much money each year for effectively the same things, then we’d have more money to put into tax rebate checks, infrastructure that doesn’t need to be bonded, and the schools that actually have students going to them. Yes, MEA-MFT will tighten it’s belt just like the rest of us. They will do this by closing down many of their school districts, period. We don’t need them, never did.
The same is true of these counties. They were split apart in the zeal that came with a land rush, an agricultural boom. Neither lasted much more than ten years, but we’ve been paying for them ever since. Let’s stop.