Local Government Review

 The question of Local Government Review is put on the ballot every 10 years as mandated by the Montana State Constitution.  The purpose is for voters to decide if a review of the Form of Government of a particular city, town, or county is the most efficient and best fit for that entity.  In 2014 the majority of voters cast their ballots FOR conducting a Government Review of the Town of Hot Springs.  The next time this will be on the ballot is 2024.  In 2015 the study commission recommended that the following changes be submitted to the voters for their approval:

1.  Elimination of wards, allowing for “at large” elections.

2. Designation that all future elections be “Non-Partisan.”

Local Government Review is a study of the FORM of government which presides over the Town of Hot Springs.

The Town of Hot Springs has  a Commissioner-Executive (Mayor – Council) form of government.  The Mayor is elected separately from the council, with administrative and budgetary authority.  The council is elected and maintains legislative powers, makes policy, and approves budgets.

The vote for a study commission is an opportunity to evaluate the current form against other forms of government recognized by the State of Montana, which are:

Commission form of government is most often found at the county level.  Only one city in Montana has a Commission form of government.  Voters elect  individual commissioners to a small governing board.  Each commissioner is responsible  for one specific aspect, such as fire, pubic works, health, finance, etc.  One commissioner is designated as chairman, who presides over meetings.  The commission has both legislative and executive functions.

Commissioner-Executive consists of a Mayor and Council.  Each is elected by the people and share general government powers, as noted above.  There are 114 cities and towns in Montana employing some version of this form of government.

Commissioner- Manager which provides for a paid city manager, hired by the commission rather than elected by voters, to coordinate all aspects of government and report to a commission or council.  The commission oversees general administration, makes policy, and sets budgets.  While expensive, this form increases efficiency of the city government. This form may or may not have a mayor, although he or she is usually the presiding officer of the commission, with no other authority.

Commission-Chairman is a “Parliamentary” form of government which is found in 2 of the towns in Montana.  A commission of not less than 5 representatives is elected and then selects a chairman from among its own members,  who retains full voting rights, and seves for a term determined by the commission.

Town Meeting, whereby all citizens meet usually once a year and make decisions, which are carried out by an elected chairman.  This form is only allowed to communities of less than 1000 people.  Only Pinedale, located in the Bitterroot  in Bozeman.  The Study Commission will have approximately 18 months to conduct their study, hold public meetings, and make their recommendation.  Their finding will be placed on the general election ballot in 2016.

If you have other questions, you may contact the LOCAL GOVERNMENT CENTER at MSU in Bozeman — 406-994-6694 or email —  msulocalgov@montana.edu.  Also the Hot Springs Library has a publication, “Montana Municipal Officials Handbook,” edited by Kenneth L. Weaver, which explores the forms and duties of local government.

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