North Bozeman Development

Downtown Bozeman is shown in this April photo.

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Bozeman will likely receive metropolitan designation with the results of the 2020 census after a federal agency on Tuesday ditched a proposal to double the population threshold for a metropolitan statistical area.

The federal Office of Management and Budget released a proposal earlier this year that would have increased the population threshold for an urban area to be considered a metropolitan area from 50,000 to 100,000. Bozeman, which is often cited as one of the fastest-growing micropolitans in the country, is expected to tick over the 50,000 mark when the 2020 census numbers are released.

The proposed change to the standards would have disrupted federal funding Bozeman is expecting to have access to after being declared a metropolitan area, as the metropolitan designation often impacts federal funding allocations.

In a notice published Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget said it decided there was “insufficient justification” to raise the population threshold to 100,000, and that more research is needed before changing the metropolitan criteria.

“A change to the fundamental criteria that determine whether an area is considered metropolitan would cause disruption to statistical programs and products, and would be difficult for the statistical agencies to implement,” the notice read.

Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester celebrated the news in a press release Tuesday.

Tester introduced a bill in the Senate in April that would have blocked the Office of Management and Budget from making the change, which was co-sponsored by Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines.

“Montana communities depend on certainty and reliable funding to thrive, and a shortsighted bureaucratic change like this is the last thing cities like Great Falls, Missoula, and Bozeman needed as they work to get back on their feet after the pandemic,” Tester said.

More than 100 cities would have been impacted by the designation change. Missoula and Great Falls would have been demoted to micropolitan areas under the proposal.

In a press release, Daines said he was happy to see the proposal rejected.

“I’m glad to see the Biden administration listen to my request and rollback (the) proposal to change city size designations that would have robbed Bozeman, Missoula and Great Falls of critical resources,” Daines said.

Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus said she is grateful for the news.

“It really means that funding options that were not previously available to Bozeman will now be available, barring that we reach that 50,000 mark,” Andrus said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

The city has long been anticipating becoming a metropolitan area after the 2020 census, which has impacted funding and transportation planning for years. Metropolitans are required to establish planning organizations with nearby entities for transportation work.

Bozeman began planning to form a metropolitan planning organization with Belgrade and Gallatin County this spring.

“More planning along those lines will definitely be taking place,” Andrus said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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