The decision to close the Bitterroot Job Service office seems to be based on reasons other than the Montana Department of Labor’s data.
The data shows an office and county that are contributing substantial revenue to the state. The Labor Department makes the inaccurate claim that it will be more cost-effective to send the workers of Ravalli County 50 miles to the Missoula office.
The spin to the facts raises the question: Is the decision doing what’s best for the citizens of Ravalli County and the state, or for the convenience of the department? Is this rural versus urban? Ravalli County’s unemployment rate in June was 4.2 percent, while Missoula’s is 3 percent. Wouldn’t the most cost-effective effort be to increase employment in Ravalli County? How does moving the office 50 miles help these numbers?
• Ravalli County pays nearly $31 million in income taxes to the state, which is 43 percent more than any of the other offices being closed.
• Ravalli County is the state’s seventh-largest county; larger than Butte/Silver Bow, which is not losing their job service office. Ravalli County pays 11 percent more income tax to the state than Butte/Silver Bow.
• Bitterroot Job Service provides services to 2,500 more businesses than any of the other job services being closed, and service to 700 more businesses than Butte, which is not being closed.
• Bitterroot Job Service provides services to a work force of 19,358, which is 43 percent more workers being served than the next-largest closed office. It provides service to 2,043 more workers than Butte.
• Ravalli County collects nearly $40 million in property taxes. Without the community benefit of the Job Service office, how many jobs will be lost?
The communications director for the Labor Department, Jake Troyer, in recent newspaper articles, noted that closing the four offices will save $700,000. If the state loses 1 percent of tax revenue locally due to the decision to stop serving those who pay the revenue, the state will have saved nothing. Troyer stated, “Ravalli County people needing the service can go to the Missoula office for help.” Troyer, how often do you drive 50 miles and call it cost-effective and convenient?
The agency recently did a review of its service centers. The Bitterroot Job Service ranked seventh out of 20 in customer use, ninth out of 20 in both jobs posted and in enrollments. These numbers are rock solid. This is not a weak link in the revenue-producing chain, and is well above the other locations that are staying open.
I’m asking the department to make their decision based on fact and data, not their own convenience. As the data shows, this decision loses dollars to save dimes.
The state spends a lot of money on economic development, marketing and planning to support business. That money is the citizens’ of this state’s money. The citizens invest in economic development when we pay our taxes. Montana is spending that on our behalf and now it’s telling some that the state no longer wants to invest in their community, that now 10,066 businesses will no longer be served locally.
The data doesn’t justify the decision. If this were a court case we would say, “The evidence demands a correct verdict.” The present decision is wrong for the state, as there are no cost savings, wrong for the communities, for the taxpayers and for the businesses trying to be successful. Employment pays the taxes. The department appears to be shooting itself in the foot with the Ravalli County decision.