Gallatin County voters were united in rejecting a $59 million bond issue to replace the Law and Justice Center with rural residents and every city and town voting down the project.

Bozeman had the closest results with 51.2% of voters rejecting the bid for a new building and 48.8% supporting the tax hike.

These results came as a surprise.

Before last week’s election, Gallatin County officials voiced concern that Bozeman voters would be the most likely to reject the new Law and Justice Center because they approved a $36.9 million bond issue for the city-only public safety center in 2018. County officials thought Bozeman voters might confuse the city building — which will house the police department, municipal courts, victims services and the Fire Station No. 1 — with the county building, which would have included similar resources.

They also worried Bozeman voters would be particularly resistant to property tax increases after repeated tax hikes in recent years to accommodate the city’s growth.

Support for the bond issue was weakest in Manhattan where 66.2% of voters rejected construction of the new building. However, Manhattan voters approved a permanent five-mill levy, which will generate about $16,190 annually for raises of $2 per hour for the town’s three patrol officers. The mill levy will increase property taxes by about $13.50 annually for the owner of a home with a market value of $200,000.

Unofficial countywide totals show 55% of voters rejected the bid to replace the existing Law and Justice Center on South 16th Avenue.

This is not the first time the county has sought approval for a bond issue to fund a new Law and Justice Center and has said it will likely put the issue before voters again.

Unlike the bond issue, voters were split on whether to change the format of county elections from partisan to nonpartisan.

Overall, 54.4% of voters rejected nonpartisan elections, meaning there will continue to be Republican and Democratic primaries for county offices and the candidates from each party who receive the most votes will go on to the general election.

However, voters in Bozeman and West Yellowstone supported the change to the election format by a narrow margin. In Bozeman, 50.3% of voters opted for nonpartisan elections, and in West Yellowstone, 51.4% wanted them.

Perrin Stein can be reached at or at 582-2648.

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