Local Funding Sources

The major source of public library funding in Montana comes from local property taxes, either through a specific mill levy or an appropriation from general funds. State law allows the governing body of a city or county with an established public library to levy a special tax in the amount necessary to maintain adequate public library service unless an increased mill levy is approved through a vote of the people.

In addition, emergency mill levies can be used as a source of funding for special needs. The timeline below outlines the steps and timing necessary to pass a mill levy.

Libraries that receive funds from mill levies are eligible to receive prorated money from sources other than property taxes as well, such as ancillary taxes including motor vehicle taxes, oil and gas production taxes, motorcycle fees and so on. State law also allows the governing body of any city or county, or a combination of the city and county, to establish a library depreciation fund. This money can be used to acquire property, make capital improvements and purchase equipment necessary for library services. City or county funds allocated to the library but not spent at the end of the fiscal year can be applied to the library depreciation reserve fund. The library board must request establishment of this fund. To obtain more local support for your library, you may wish to ask the public to vote on a special mill levy for the library. It's a time consuming task, but worth it. You'll receive a much-needed boost to your budget if you are successful and will be able to offer better services.

Suggested Mill Levy Timeline

January - March

Library director and board define goals and prepare budget for upcoming year

April - May

Trustees communicate with city or county commissioners about budget and the need for a mill levy.

June - July

Library board seeks out the legal requirements and ballot language.

August - September

Director and board recruit for board/citizens' task force and appoint task force members.

October - December

Task force identifies funding sources and develops the petition*. Task force presents recommendations to the trustees. Trustees adopt task force recommendations and support petition.


Task force circulates petition*, which must be signed by at least five percent of the resident taxpayers. Trustees meet with city or county clerk to review ballot language. Trustees and commissioners meet to discuss petition and election. Trustees and task force hold an informational meeting about the adopted mill levy vote.


Library board files petition* with governing body at least 90 days prior to the general election. Task force recruits a citizens' campaign committee.

March - May

Citizen's campaign committee prepares facts, fliers and other materials; holds informational meetings for the public; and implements other steps in publicity campaign.



**Petition may not be required if local governing body handles the entire process by its power of resolution.
**Develop comparable timelines for elections not in June by working back from the date of the election.

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