“I strongly encourage Glacier County elected officials to comply with the various components of the law and immediately resolve this multiple year issue with the school monies not being transmitted to the schools in a timely manner,” wrote Dr. Tim Tharp, in an email addressed to the Glacier County Commissioners and the Glacier County Treasurer in mid-May. Tharp is the Interim Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Montana Office of Public Instruction.
Less than a week after Tharp’s strongly worded email, School District No. 15 received a much needed and overdue payment of nearly $300,000.
“I wrote you on Jan. 24 asking for an update regarding the ongoing issues regarding the apparent failure of the Treasurer’s Office to comply with components of MCA 20-9-212. I have yet to receive any response from the Treasurer’s Office,” wrote Tharp.
He met with Glacier County Superintendent of Schools Darryl Omsberg and Montana Superintendent of Schools Elsie Arntzen in Helena on May 16 and learned Glacier County was still not issuing payments to the school district as required by state law.
“In addition to the cash balances not being distributed each month, retirement monies have not been paid as requested to Cut Bank Schools since December,” continued Tharp. He pointed to wording in the law, which makes it “very clear that the Treasurer is to make the payments requested by the (County) Superintendent (of Schools).”
Tharp pointed out, “The problem in the past has been that there are very few provisions in state law to compel one elected official to carry out their duties when required to by another elected official…However, this past legislative session changed some provisions in the law. House Bill 422 now allows the Attorney General to pursue official misconduct charges against any public official who ‘fails to remit any amounts collected on behalf of the state . . . owed to the state or another taxing jurisdiction, as otherwise required by law’.”
Tharp concluded, “I would rather not be forced to get the Attorney General involved to compel the Glacier County Treasurer to do their job, but we are left with few other options.”
On May 23, less than a week after he sent his email, District Clerk Scott Laird said he received a check for $299,860.31 from Glacier County Treasurer Galen Galbreath. The check included the Elementary and High School Retirement payments for December 2016; February, March and April 2017; as well as the Elementary and High School Transportation payments.
Laird said as of press time he was still waiting for the overdue January, February, March and April county tax payments.