MACo enhances the public service mission of counties by promoting integrity and providing proactive leadership while acknowledging and respecting Montana’s diversity.

MACo History

The “Montana Association of County Commissioners” was formed in January 1909, for the purposes of providing advocacy on behalf of its members at the State Legislature. In 1973, the Association was reorganized as the “Montana Association of Counties” to allow for the creation of a permanent office and authorized the hiring of an Executive Director and appropriate staff.

In 1985, a group of Montana counties banded together to create the “MACo Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Workers’ Compensation Trust,” in response to rapidly increasing costs for workers’ compensation coverage for county employees. In 2015, the Trust was renamed to the “Workers Compensation Trust (WCT).”

In 1986, the “MACo Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA)” was created to provide liability and general insurance coverage for member counties, in response to the change in the market which made policies for certain liability coverages unavailable and/or unaffordable for members. In 2015, the Trust was renamed to the “Property & Casualty Trust (PCT).”

In 1999, the MACo Administration building was built, with ownership equally shared between MACo, the JPA (now the WCT) and the JPIA (now the PCT).

In 2005, the “MACo Health Care Trust (HCT)” was created to provide group health benefits to member counties and special districts.

In 2006, a second building was built by the PCT/WCT.

MACo as an Association provides third-party administration services to the HCT, PCT, and WCT through annual service agreements.

Following extensive due diligence by the Boards of the Trusts, it was determined that bringing services in-house and hiring staff would save members considerably, by eliminating the continually increasing costs of third-party administrators and contracts:

  1. In July 1992, PCT marketing was brought in-house.
  2. In October 1987, WCT Risk Management was brought in-house
  3. In January 2006, PCT/WCT claims administration was brought in-house.
  4. In April 2007, HCT Administration, marketing, and member services were brought in-house.
  5. In October 2008, Legal Counsel and Defense Services were brought in-house.

MACo’s Goals

  1. To educate and develop relationships with legislators, state officials and local elected officials regarding county structure, budgeting and operation;
  2. To provide education on self-determination techniques such as charter government and  functional consolidation, and facilitating agreements;
  3. To educate the public using press releases distributed to local media to market county government; and
  4. To promote effective tax reform including consideration of general sales tax.

Suggested Action Steps for MACo Goals

Goal #1: To educate and develop relationships with legislators, state officials and local elected officials regarding county structure, budgeting and operations . . .

Suggested Actions

  • During district meetings, prepare a packet or presentation for commissioners and for legislators:
    • During district meetings, prepare a packet or presentation for commissioners and for legislators.
  • MACo provides a reception for legislators at which a brief packet of information is provided.
  • Provide a hotline to MACo during legislative session that legislators can use to ask questions about pending bills.
  • Invite some legislators to attend new county officials orientation.
  • More commissioners should be present every day during the legislative sessions.
  • Commissioners attending the Legislature wear a button stating “Ask me about county government.”
  • Modify MACo Policy Statements and provide to legislators.
  • Provide a follow-up to the session including a report card on how each legislator voted.
  • Expand the box lunch.
  • Lobbying starts at home, before the session.
  • Conference calls with legislators.

Goal #2:  To provide education on self-determination techniques such as charter government and functional consolidation, and facilitating agreements . . .

Suggested Actions

  • Provide a major workshop on the voter review process, the implications of charter government, functional consolidation, and regionalizing services.
  • Conduct a survey of existing interlocal agreements and models of alternative arrangements; incorporate an article in the MACo newsletter about the resources available.
  • Develop a certification and continuing education credit program for commissioners.  (An education committee was appointed.)

Goal #3: To better educate the public using press releases distributed to local media to market county government . . .

Suggested Actions

  • Ask NACo for training on how to effectively utilize the media.
  • Develop the message with focus on what counties are accomplishing, so people can see what counties are actively doing.
  • Pursue opinion/editorial features in newspapers, both issue-oriented and opinion-oriented.
  • Provide a workshop to coach participants on what is important to write.
  • Send out news releases about meetings and what was done/discussed.
  • Send news releases to individual counties to release to their local press.
  • Create a media committee to advise MACo staff to develop the media concept.  (A media committee was appointed.)

Goal #4:  To promote effective tax reform including consideration of general sales tax . . .

Suggested Actions

  • MACo prepares and disseminates an opinion/editorial piece about counties’ support of broad-based tax restructuring.
  • Educate the public about tax bills:  pie charts and other demonstrations to indicate property tax distributions.
  • Work with the Legislature on a comprehensive sales tax bill.