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Determination of Permissive Levy for Group Benefits


Contact: 
Harold Blattie, Executive Director, Montana Association of Counties

Worksheet

The 2009 Montana Legislature passed Senate Bill 491, a bill to clarify the amount of property taxes that may be permissively levied for group benefits (employee health insurance).  The bill made no policy changes but rather, it placed into statute what has always been the most-widely held understanding and interpretation of that provision in law.

The primary provisions of SB 491 did the following:

  • Provided a definition of Political Subdivision - Clarifies which jurisdictions may enact the permissive levy
  • Provided a definition of Group Benefits - Defines what benefits may be included in the permissive levy
  • Clarified that proprietary-funded employees are not included in the permissive levy
  • Provided a process for each jurisdiction to determine its base amount
  • Clarifies that a jurisdiction does not lose levy authority in the future if it chooses to levy less than the maximum allowed
  • Provided a five year transition period, after which all jurisdictions will have to come into complete compliance
  • Provided a savings clause - This means that if a jurisdiction has over-levied in the past, repayments do not have to be made.

We know that there are some jurisdictions that have calculated the amount incorrectly. The bill included a transition provision that will allow a jurisdiction to levy the higher of the amount, in dollars, that was levied in Fiscal year 2009 or the correctly calculated amount pursuant to 15-10-420 as amended by SB0491, referenced as sec. 4, Ch. 412, L.2009, TRANSITION.  While the strict language provides the option of either-or, it is implied that the maximum or any amount less than the maximum may be levied, without losing the ability to levy the maximum in the future.

In supporting this bill, the stakeholders agreed that a spreadsheet should be developed to make this calculation as a means of preventing incorrect calculations in the future.  This is something that would have been very helpful if it had been done when the permissive levy was first established in 2001 and may have prevented many mistakes.

At the top of this page is a link to the spreadsheet that has been developed, with the Department of Administration taking the lead.  It was first created by DOA, and then modified based upon comments from a small working group.  It was then vetted to a group of county fiscal officers and county clerks to be the "test pilots or guinea pigs", whichever term they preferred!  Additionally, Magda Nelson from DOA attended all of the Department's Spring workshops and presented this to many city and county officials who also provided feedback that was incorporated into the final spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet is simple and easy to use with minimal input required.  There are two tabs in the spreadsheet, the first is the Instructions page containing excerpts of the amended laws to assist in understanding what should and should not be included, mandatory creation of fund 2372-Permissive Levy, additional information for local governments that are self-insured, and Steps 1 through 4, each containing explanations of the information needed to complete each Step on the DETERMINATION OF PERMISSIVE LEVY FOR GROUP BENEFITS page. Examples are also provided for clarification.

 

The second tab is the spreadsheet that does the actual calculation.  All cells in the spreadsheet are locked for protection, except the yellow cells, which are the cells you will input data specific to your county.  NOTE:  Move your cursor to the red marks in the upper right corner of some of the yellow cells. A small pop-up will provide additional information about that cell.

I would suggest you determine the county’s BASE YEAR and gather all information needed first, and then proceed to complete the DETERMINATION OF PERMISSIVE MILL LEVY FOR GROUP BENEFITS page.

The most critical thing to determine is your BASE YEAR AMOUNT.   This is done in step #1.  First enter the fiscal year that is your base. (Cell A-1) If your county made contributions on or before July 1, 1999 (FY 2000) for group benefits and levied for group benefits in fiscal year 2002 (the first year it was authorized), or any subsequent fiscal year, fiscal year 2000 becomes your base year. If you did not make contributions for group benefits on or before July 1, 1999, and began, in a later fiscal year, making employer contributions in July and subsequently levied permissive mills, the first fiscal year, beginning in July, you made employer contributions becomes your base year. If you have never levied any permissive mills but intend to do so for the first time this year, and, have made employer contributions beginning in July 2008, FY-09 becomes your base year.  I cannot stress how important correctly establishing your base is.  Once established, it will drive all future calculations.  If you have any problems in making this determination, please call me and we can walk through it together.

I would also note that you have always been, and still are, required to hold a public hearing that has been properly noticed in accordance with 7-1-2121 MCA (county) or 7-1-4127 (city).  Most jurisdictions do this as a part of their regular budget hearing.  I recommend that you specifically set this out as a separate part of the public hearing and make sure your minutes reflect this.

Please do not hesitate to ask any questions that you may have.  There are no dumb questions. We have one opportunity to do this right or will risk losing the permissive authority completely.

To contact the Local Government Services Bureau please click the following link:  http://sfsd.mt.gov/SFSDContacts#LGSB

Access the Determination of Permissive Levy for Group Benefits Worksheet Here

Harold Blattie | hblattie@mtcounties.org | 406-449-4360