Saturday, June 15, 2024

Commissioners answer “hard questions” posed last week

In last week’s edition of the Leader, Jean Vincent of Polson urged residents to ask some “hard questions” of the present County Commissioners related to how business is being conducted. We welcome questions and would like to address Ms. Vincent’s inquiries.

She stated that there is “a desperate need for an independent audit of the county funds.”

Montana law requires that a county of our size performs an independent audit every two years. Our latest audit was performed by Denning, Downing and Associates. Their firm is the leading independent auditor of local governments in Montana. 

The results of our audit confirmed that our financial processes and procedures were sound and there were no weaknesses in our system. The county is in sound financial condition. Copies of the audit are available to the public.

Ms. Vincent also questioned why the county is building offices included in a new annex instead of a jail. In 2020 county voters soundly rejected a levy request that would have raised $20 million over 20 years to build and maintain a new detention center. Following the defeat of the levy, the commission began looking at other more financially conservative alternatives.

After lengthy discussions it was determined that expansion of the current detention center, located in the basement of the courthouse, could be accomplished by moving our Elections Office, also located in the Court House basement, to a new building. Other offices, such as planning and environmental health, could also be added to the building, adding much needed space for those offices. The price tag is $7 million and construction will take approximately one year.

Once a move is made into the new space, the adding of additional jail beds will begin.

We agree that property tax reform is necessary, and the governor has appointed a task force to provide recommendations to the next legislative session. The legislature sets property tax law; the primary function of the county is to collect taxes and distribute them to the various entities such as schools, special improvement districts, fire districts, etc.

Members of the public are welcome to visit with us in our chambers in the courthouse whenever we are not conducting a scheduled meeting. Appointments can be made by calling 406-883-7204.