Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - KGVO News has reported two stories dealing with the battle over property taxes, one from the perspective of Missoula County, the subject of a lawsuit by the state, and the other from the office of Governor Greg Gianforte.

The property tax has traditionally fully funded the 95 mills used to fund Montana’s public schools; however, with the expected increase in residential property taxes coming on November 1, counties are proactively reducing the mills from 95 to about 78 mills, which initiated the legal action against Missoula County.

OPI Head Elsie Arntzen Speaks Out About School Funding Dispute

For her part, Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen told KGVO News that school funding is set by statute.

“Right now our general fund the, how do I say, the bucket of money where tax dollars flow, whether it's income tax, or property tax from any millage occurs in our general fund,” began Arntzen. “Schools are funded by a formula. That formula is demanded by statute. And that means then that whether you have a guaranteed tax base, whether you have a high income tax rate or whether or not you have a high economy in your county, the 95 mills are looked at as equalization. In other words to make sure that apples look like apples across our state so that we can fund our public schools.”

Arntzen said 'Schools will be Fully Funded, No Matter Where the Money Comes From'

Arntzen said by law, schools will be fully funded, no matter where the money comes from.

“I want to dispel the fear because there is a formula,” she said. “Schools are protected, whether it is the 95 mils of the property taxes which are being discussed right now, or it is income tax that will take care of that. The amount of money that will fund our public schools is by formula. It will not decrease based on what is happening in court at this time. The general fund, which is supplied majority by income and property tax, has and will continue to fund our public school system.”

To be clear, Arntzen repeated that concept, to allay fears that public schools might have to go begging for funds.

“What I do know and what I want to keep reiterating is that public schools in Montana will be funded because they are funded through a formula that comes from the general fund,” she said. “That money is not colored, whether it is an income tax, whether it comes from the equalization, or whether it comes from property taxes, there are dollars that will be flowing to our public schools.”

Arntzen said School Funding is Protected by the Montana Constitution

Arntzen said public school funding is fully protected by the Montana Constitution.

“The lawsuit will not in my mind have any determinant factor of how public schools will receive the money when they receive the money or how much money they receive,” she said. “To make sure that our children in public school receive that quality public free education is guaranteed by our Constitution, and that will continue to be regardless of where the money's come from.”

According to the OPI website, ‘Montana demonstrates the high value it places on educating our children, by electing a State Superintendent for K-12 public education who is accountable directly to Montana citizens.  The people of Montana have elected a State Superintendent of Instruction as one of the five members of the Executive Branch since 1889’.

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Stacker compiled a list of the best public high schools in Montana using 2023 rankings from Niche.

Gallery Credit: Stacker

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