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City of Bozeman could miss out on 'metropolitan' status

Posted at 7:43 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 11:33:05-04

BOZEMAN — The city of Bozeman is expecting its population to surpass 50,000 residents in the 2020 census.

That would normally mean a city is bumped up from a “micropolitan area” to a “metropolitan area”.

But the federal government is talking about changing that definition.

Recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are proposing that Metropolitan Statistical Areas be increased from 50,000 residents to 100,000.

And while it’s still early on, this proposal has the city of Bozeman concerned.

Bozeman’s city manager Jeff Mihelich says the city is vehemently opposed to recommendations made to the Office of Management and Budget to increase the metropolitan statistical area to 100,000 people.

“For the federal government now to be pulling the rug out from under us is very disappointing,” said Mihelich.

Mihelich says the city has been preparing to move from a micropolitan to metropolitan statistical area and this proposal could impact federal funding from water to sewer to transportation and beyond.

“But the biggest concern is really the removal of community development block grant funds from the city where we would be able to use that money for affordable housing,” Mihelich added.

Bozeman’s mayor agrees—raising the minimum population for a metropolitan statistical area would jeopardize funding.

“As you grow and get toward that 50,000 population, you are entitled to receive money from the federal government. And with this change, that puts any current funding that we might get into jeopardy,” said Mayor Cyndy Andrus.

In a summary from the Federal Register, the proposed recommendation is for statistical purposes and wouldn’t affect federal funding.

Mihelich doesn’t buy it.

“If it really is non-statistical activities, then my first question would be then why are you making this change? What impact will it have on cities?” said Mihelich. “It almost feels as if you’re keeping cities in the dark. We’re making this change. It won’t affect funding. So what will it affect?”

Public comment on the new recommendations is currently being accepted by the Office of Management and Budget until Friday, and the city submitted their disapproval of the change on Wednesday.

Both U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester are opposed to the recommendations and are working closely with Montana communities who could be affected by the change.