Bozeman: What Would ACTUALLY Make Life Easier on Your Wallet?
I'm talking money. Stretching the paycheck. Incentives that truly work. Bozeman is rapidly running out of time to figure out how to allow us "normal folks" to live here. Let's get insanely creative and throw all the ideas on the wall before it's too late.
Towns that are desperate to ATTRACT residents have tons of simple incentives they can offer such as covering moving costs, etc. making it free to move there.
Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley certainly isn't that.
FYI: I'm a very financially conservative person who, like many around here, works my ass off to pay my bills. However, I recognize there are certain social issues that benefit the greater good and should be paid for by all, regardless of if I use the service personally. Below is one of those issues.
We're in the semi-unique position of becoming desperate to retain our base of working class residents. (That's just a blanket term...please don't freak out about the definition of working class. I'm simply talking about folks who work a full time job or two, and expect to realistically pay their bills.)
It's been discussed AD NAUSEUM how expensive housing has become. We complain about it. Worry about it. Bitch about it. But not once have I read of a workable idea to genuinely reduce the cost of living for Gallatin Valley residents in any other way.
Gone are the days of $250K single family homes. If there's no way (and little desire, honestly) to put that genie back in the bottle...WHAT ELSE can we do to put more money in resident's pockets or allow their dollars to stretch further?
A couple topics that jump out to me are childcare and food/grocery costs. But I'm probably only going to tackle the child care aspect here. (Remember, there are no bad ideas here, even if initially they seem impossible to execute.)
I'm no childcare expert but I know it's in ALL of our best interests to make sure quality, affordable childcare and after-school programs are available and plentiful. We simply do NOT have enough affordable options around here. Yeah, that stuff costs money but making sure our kids grow up with the resources they need, regardless of family income, seems like a win-win for all of us. Find the people. Find the locations. Cut the red tape. Cut something else out of the budget. Make it work.
We sure as hell came up with 'creative' ideas when the pandemic started, eh? Neighborhood collectives. Amateur tutors (but good enough to do the trick). Garage school rooms. Perhaps not all ideal but it was the FOCUS ON SOLUTION that impressed me.
People with the financial means can pay all they want for private childcare, learning programs or whatever. There's NOTHING wrong with that. But there should be quality, affordable (or free if qualifications are met) for all of our Gallatin County kids.
Healthy, well adjusted kids are a good thing, no? Keeping them busy after school with age appropriate activities and school help seems like a wise choice, rather than leaving some behind...to just figure it out. They're kids. The cost of childcare is financially crushing so many Gallatin Valley families.
Bozeman area after-school and summer programs fill up notoriously fast. That says to me that we need more. LOTS MORE. Sliding scale costs are super easy to implement.
As far as finding the money, Bozeman finds money for just about anything they want. Take a peek at a few months worth of accounts payable to see what I mean. If the City of Bozeman is grabbing a healthy chunk of my Gallatin County property taxes which are already obscene, SPEND MY MONEY BETTER.
This should be a priority. Inexpensive, high quality, educational childcare and MORE after school programs. Perhaps weekend options run by the City or the County. It's not the end-all be-all savior to the cost of living in the Bozeman area but it sure as hell would help.