Rural Improvement District Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1. What is a Rural Improvement District and what is their purpose?

    1. What is a Rural Improvement District and what is their purpose?

    A Rural Improvement District (RID) is a form of government as allowed for in Montana State law; see MCA 7-12-21 for more information.  The purpose of a RID is to allow residents of Lewis and Clark County (County), outside incorporated cities and towns, to finance and construct needed public improvements or for the maintenance of improvements. By law, the Board of County Commissioners of Lewis and Clark County (the Board) is vested with the authority to create RIDs.

  • 2. What kinds of improvements and services can a RID provide?

    2. What kinds of improvements and services can a RID provide?

    An RID may be used for construction, acquisition, and/or maintenance of one or more of the following:

    1. Improvements to and maintenance of existing road beds and surfacing;
    2. Devices intended to protect the safety of the public from open ditches carrying irrigation or other water;
    3. Construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of ancillary features of roads such as turnouts for mailbox banks and school busses, sidewalks, culverts, ditching, and curb and gutter;
    4. Grading, re-grading, stabilizing slopes, and managing vegetation within road easements and/or rights-of-way;
    5. Stormwater systems and all components thereof;
    6. Fire protection water supplies and systems that make water available for fire suppression;
    7. Flood control systems and all components thereof; and
    8. Public parks, trails, and open-space lands.
  • 3. How is a RID created?

    3. How is a RID created?

    The district can be created one of three ways:

    1. Citizen-initiated through a petition; and
    2. Developer-initiated as part of the Board’s approval action of a subdivision; and
    3. County-initiated for public interest.

    Each type will be considered at a noticed public hearing.

    The following steps outline how to create a Citizen-initiated RID:

    1. Contact our Ombudswoman, Christal Ness at cness@lccountymt.gov, to discuss the latest information which may affect your proposal and to set-up a Pre-Application meeting.  
    2. Attend a Pre-application meeting to discuss proposed details and request that Staff prepare a Concept Petition.
    3. Concept Petition is prepared by the Staff and contains an opinion of probable cost and a map showing the proposed District boundaries, for circulation by proponents.
    4. Upon receipt by the County of the petition with at least 60% of property owners’ signatures, a public meeting on a Resolution of Intent to create the district is scheduled.
    5. If the Resolution of Intent is approved by the Board, a 30-day protest period is opened. As part of the protest process, all owners of property within the proposed district are mailed notice of the public hearing where the Board would consider a resolution to create the district.
    6. If the resolution to create the district is approved by the Board, a resolution to levy and assess the district is scheduled to place the district assessments on property taxes for the following tax year. All owners of property within the district are mailed notice of the public hearing.
    7. If the resolution to levy and assess the district is approved by the Board, the planned improvements/maintenance are scheduled in accordance with the time frame for financing the work.
  • 4. How are RID assessments established and paid?

    4. How are RID assessments established and paid?

    Payments are made through a special assessment levied upon annual property taxes.

    Maintenance costs are established through a resolution adopted by the Board.

  • 5. Why do I need to pay for a RID if I already pay property taxes?

    5. Why do I need to pay for a RID if I already pay property taxes?

    The money you pay in general property taxes goes to a variety of public entities (such as libraries, law enforcement, etc.) as well as  general public infrastructure. However, through the establishment of a RID, the money you pay will go directly towards improvements or maintenance of improvements in your area, and only for your area.

  • 6. Why do I need to pay for a RID if our road is a County road?

    6. Why do I need to pay for a RID if our road is a County road?

    When a road is a County road, it means that it is open to the general public. Just because a road has been dedicated to the County does not mean that the road is maintained by the County. Funds available for County road maintenance are generally allocated to roads with high traffic volumes that collect traffic from a larger geographic area.

  • 7. Who controls the money in a RID?

    7. Who controls the money in a RID?

    Funds are administered by the County. All documents and financial records are open to the public. It is most efficient for the County to work closely with a group of property owners to collaboratively monitor funds and plan work for each RID.  If you would like to become a point of contact to help facilitate work projects within your RID, please let the County Special Districts Coordinator, Matt Heimel at mheimel@lccountymt.gov, know.

  • 8. What happens if somebody doesn't pay the RID assessment?

    8. What happens if somebody doesn't pay the RID assessment?

    The special assessment is a component of annual property taxes. Penalties for delinquent payments will apply.

  • 9. Why are there certain roads that are within the RID boundary that do not receive improvements or maintenance?

    9. Why are there certain roads that are within the RID boundary that do not receive improvements or maintenance?

    There are a variety of potential reasons why a certain road can be within a RID but not receive service. For example, the road may have a low frequency of use or a prohibitively high cost of improvements and/or maintenance. If the road is not included in the resolution that created the RID, the RID would need to be amended by the Board if property owners wish to include it. The process to amend a RID follows that of creation.

  • 10. Who decides when work needs to be done?

    10. Who decides when work needs to be done?

    It is scheduled in advance by the County or in collaboration with the neighborhood. The Public Works Department is delegated with authority from the Board for determining when and where work is done.

  • 11. Who decides the improvement and/or maintenance costs?

    11. Who decides the improvement and/or maintenance costs?

    The County, or in the case of a new subdivision a developer, must submit an assessment of anticipated improvement/maintenance costs for Staff review and approval by the Board.

  • 12. Do vacant lots pay for the RID?

    12. Do vacant lots pay for the RID?

    Yes, because even accessing a vacant lot as a property owner you utilize the benefits of road improvements. 

  • 13. Why is the County in charge of the RID instead of the Homeowners’ Association (HOA) being in charge?

    13. Why is the County in charge of the RID instead of the Homeowners’ Association (HOA) being in charge?

    Having County provide oversight of a RID ensures that your road will be maintained regardless of an HOA’s operational status or the availability of HOA collected funds  At some point prior, either property owners or the County established your RID.  A RID ensures that funds will be collected from each benefited property and will be used for the benefit of properties within your RID.

  • 14. What is the turnaround for work after it is requested?

    14. What is the turnaround for work after it is requested?

    It depends on the nature of the work and time frame for financing the project. For more information, please contact Jesse Whitford in our Public Works department at jwithford(at)lccountymt.gov 

  • 15. How do we coordinate having our roads plowed in winter?

    15. How do we coordinate having our roads plowed in winter?

    If snow plowing is a component of the work contemplated in the approval of RID,  residents should coordinate with Jesse Whitford in our Public Works department at jwhitford(at)lccountymt.gov to have a contractor on call to plow the roads.

  • 16. What can we do if we eventually have insufficient funds or an unnecessary surplus?

    16. What can we do if we eventually have insufficient funds or an unnecessary surplus?

    Once a year, you can request that the Board increase or decrease the annual assessment. In the case of an unnecessary surplus, RID residents can petition to construct improvements outside of the scope of their particular RID or have the funds on reserve for future work.

  • 17. If we have money left over from a tax year, does it carry into the next?

    17. If we have money left over from a tax year, does it carry into the next?

    Yes. The County accounts for budgets and funds of all RIDs annually.

  • 18. What can we do if we need to add more roads into the RID, or if we need to change the scope of improvements and/or maintenance?

    18. What can we do if we need to add more roads into the RID, or if we need to change the scope of improvements and/or maintenance?

    You can ask for a modification of the scope of service for your RID. A modification follows the same process as the creation of a RID.

  • 19. How can the County justify the RID if my property taxes are going to significantly increase?

    19. How can the County justify the RID if my property taxes are going to significantly increase?

    The increase in property taxes is due to the fact that your property directly benefits from the improvements and/or maintenance to the public infrastructure. Due to the size and development diversity of the County, it cannot afford to provide other than basic services throughout the County.  One benefit of a RID is that an increased level of service is available for the more developed rural areas through the RID self-assessment program.

  • 20. Why is my property considered a benefited property?

    20. Why is my property considered a benefited property?

    Because it is adjacent or abuts roads/infrastructure designated for improvement/maintenance, or has the possibility of accessing a RID and will benefit from abatement, such as dust control. Each RID is analyzed individually for the type of work proposed and what properties would benefit from the work. That determination is presented at the Board’s public hearing for which any affected property owners would receive notice.

  • 21. Why am I paying the same amount as my neighbor who lives further down the road?

    21. Why am I paying the same amount as my neighbor who lives further down the road?

    The Board has set a policy through precedent that all RID districts will be assessed using a method where each property is assessed equally.

  • 22. How will I be able to learn about and comment on the processes to create, amend, change the boundary, and adjust the tax assessment of a RID?

    22. How will I be able to learn about and comment on the processes to create, amend, change the boundary, and adjust the tax assessment of a RID?

    All actions to create, amend, change the boundary, and/or adjust the tax assessment of a RID must be taken by the BCC at a publicly noticed meeting. When any of the noted actions are contemplated, all landowners in the area affected by the RID would be notified by the County.

  • 23. If I own multiple lots, will I pay an assessment for each individual lot?

    23. If I own multiple lots, will I pay an assessment for each individual lot?

    Yes.

  • 24. Is there an official election to vote on action for the RID?

    24. Is there an official election to vote on action for the RID?

    No. A petition is circulated before a RID is considered, and public hearings are scheduled and publicly noticed for decisions on the proposed RID creation and proposed assessments.

  • 25. Who ultimately has control over a RID?

    25. Who ultimately has control over a RID?

    The Board has the ultimate authority over RIDs in the form of adopting resolutions specifying the work and assessments for each RID. It is administratively infeasible, however, for the County to closely manage every detail of all RIDs. Property owners are strongly encouraged to collaborate with County staff on management of their individual RID.