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Old 05-01-2011, 01:50 PM
 
17 posts, read 113,209 times
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Moved here from 2000 miles away over 6 months ago and am posting this as not a slam to Missoula but as advise to those who may be considering the same type move. We love it here and remain happy we selected Missoula BUT come with your eyes open and do the research ahead of time.

Pros:
Outdoors: It is beautiful with an amazing quality of life. If you enjoy the outdoors and want a great place to raise a family to pull them away from being inside all the time, it is wonderful. If you are looking to get more in tune or back in tune with nature - fantastic location!

Weather: The winters are considered more mild here than most parts of Montana. This year was exceptional with record snow falls and winter is still here ranging from about mid Nov to mid May. That said, the area is well equipped to handle the snow with great equipment and services. 0 school days cancelled where our kids attend. We have adopted from others "if you can't handle the winters here, you don't deserve the Springs." I just keep wondering where the Springs are.

Schools: relatively small class rooms and kids are challenged. (some cons here also listed below.)

Traffic: almost none expect on Reserve St during busy hours. If you are from a big city it is 0.

Size: not too small and not too large with everything you need found locally. Far removed from the big city life if you are burned out.

Clean: it is a fairly clean town where people take pride in their homes, the environment, and surroundings. That said, you can find trashy neighborhoods in every town.

Location: 120 miles from Glacier National Park and about 240 miles from Yellowstone. If you love parks and the outdoors, you will never wonder or debate where to go for weekends or vacations. (If you love the ocean , sunbathing, and being on the beach ... you will fly to get there from here.)

Cons:

Economy: while some might say this represents the nation as a whole, it does not as I have lived in 5 different states in the last 5 yrs. Do not come here without a job if you must work. If you have an industrial background, forget it. Most people work 2-3 jobs to get by and the median salary here is one of the lowest in the nation. You will struggle to save the money you need to because of the cost of living not matching the income abilities. I still do not know where most people work that live here. It is boasted as a technical job area with the university, medical jobs, software, etc... but spend time here and you will wonder where all the average blue collar families work? It is not a manufacturing friendly town. 2 major operations closed within the last 2 years that hurt the tax base badly causing layoffs in public sectors including the school systems. You will hear in the same sentence, "it is so terrible the plants closed here and thousands of people lost jobs, BUT we are glad those dirty smoke stacks went away." The dirty smoke stacks mentioned were simply steam and water evaporation.

Travel: If you need to fly for personal or business, the local airport is not cost effective and very limited. Often I drive 3.5 hrs to Spokane for most flights.

Food: groceries and high for what you find. Area is very green and if you are into organics (and have the money) you will be happy. If not, you will find Walmart to be your favorite stop but higher than national average. Sure you are reading no sales tax and thinking this is great ... prices make up for whatever savings you assume from no sales tax.

Different: again not a slam but if you are new to the west / Montana, etc.. you will struggle to make friends quickly. You will make quicker relations with those relating with you that moved here from somewhere else than locals. Montana is a huge state with less than 1M people and frankly, they like it that way. It's somewhat of a hippie town with bumper stickers proclaiming to "Keep Missoula Weird." Kinda artsy / fartsy like Austin, TX.

Housing: there should be no reason (including land cost) for it to cost $125-$150 dollars sf to buy or build a house here, but it does. Property taxes are lower than most states but consider a house costing $100K more than you think it should and you would be happy to pay $1500-2000 / yr more on property taxes and see that money go to improve the roads and public schools as well as economic development (which btw is almost non-existent.)

Schools (again): our kids are getting a good education and the attention needed from smaller classrooms. If you are a teacher looking for a job, warning! As mentioned layoffs and cutbacks are taking place in most systems due to the economy and industrial pull outs. The schools are fairly poor and it shows big time in academics for elementary and junior high schools. Simply, there is not enough local funding or state funding without the industry here to cover. Montana is one of the 2 states with balanced budgets. This is great but at what cost?

Focal Points: follow the locals news online through the media markets, twitter, and other sources. More crime than you would expect for this area, more focus on medical marijuana, big rigs on the highways, somebody cut a tree down, how can we open another casino or pawn shop, and so on compared to core issues of how can we create more jobs, improve the economy, bring industry to the area, support existing industry so they do not leave, and so on. If you want to get involved and have a voice - good luck as the reception to outsiders is not very good.

Neutrals:

Diversity - depending on your history and preferences this can go either way. But check the ethnicity numbers of the area if you have concerns.

Church: again depending on your background but do not expect the Bible belt with lots of Baptists. You can find a Bible following churches anywhere in the country and will need to do your homework to find a fit for your family here.

Food: descent but you will not be blown away. Again due to the economic issues, fast food and chains are the most popular.

Most say if you do not like here - leave. Easier said than done and again it's not a matter of being down on Missoula or not liking the area. As with most cities there are Pros and Cons and I listed a few from our experience of not being from the area. I hope some find this helpful that need to ask the same questions.
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Old 05-01-2011, 09:35 PM
 
213 posts, read 598,032 times
Reputation: 180
I've lived in Missoula for 20+ years, and I have to say your post seems well thought out, and for the most part fair and accurate.

It just goes to show that there is no place that is perfect. Anyone thinking of moving here really needs to do their research, and set their priorities about what they are willing to give up in order to find improvement in other areas.

Probably the only area I would really disagree with is groceries. I was shopping in Oregon & western Washington last year and it really made Missoula prices seem low.
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Old 05-01-2011, 09:47 PM
 
17 posts, read 113,209 times
Reputation: 77
Good point bongo403 in comparison to Oregon and Washington. I travel a lot into both states and would say as a whole the cost of living - gas, food, housing (influenced greatly by California transits) is higher than Montana.

You are so true in saying others need to consider what they are willing to give up to have this quality of life. If you are retired / wealthy and do not need to work in the area - most of the cons will not apply.
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Old 05-01-2011, 11:39 PM
 
Location: Approximately 50 miles from Missoula MT/38 yrs full time after 4 yrs part time
2,294 posts, read 3,339,186 times
Reputation: 4824
Quote:
Originally Posted by Last stop View Post
Good point bongo403 in comparison to Oregon and Washington. I travel a lot into both states and would say as a whole the cost of living - gas, food, housing (influenced greatly by California transits) is higher than Montana.

You are so true in saying others need to consider what they are willing to give up to have this quality of life. If you are retired / wealthy and do not need to work in the area - most of the cons will not apply.
,,,,,,,,,,, and IMO, some of the opinions you have formed after "being here just six months, WILL change after you've gone thru a couple of years in total. It appears, you have not actually spent a whole summer here yet,
perhaps after you've been here from April through Oct, you'll feel somewhat differently about certain impressions you think are valid now.

EDIT: IMHO, I feel strongly that initial impoession(s) that are formed by people from an entirely different area of the US, are quite dependent on who & how they were exposed to Missoula and the immediated area; the knowlwdge and predijuces of the person doing the "showing-around"........and most importantly, who much research (in all phases of life-in-Missoula) did the transplant do before moving. Of course we all are different in how we approach a set of circumstances that cause us to make a decision that will have a very large effect on our daily live(s) from that point on.

I visited 8 times (in different seasons) and took a total of almost two years for feel totally comfortable in making the move. Good luck.

Last edited by Montana Griz; 05-01-2011 at 11:54 PM..
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Old 05-02-2011, 08:50 AM
 
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
7,543 posts, read 12,599,522 times
Reputation: 2954
Quote:
Originally Posted by Last stop View Post
You will hear in the same sentence, "it is so terrible the plants closed here and thousands of people lost jobs, BUT we are glad those dirty smoke stacks went away." The dirty smoke stacks mentioned were simply steam and water evaporation.
<snippola>
The schools are fairly poor and it shows big time in academics for elementary and junior high schools. Simply, there is not enough local funding or state funding without the industry here to cover. Montana is one of the 2 states with balanced budgets. This is great but at what cost?
A pretty fair post but I want to especially emphasize these two points:

You can't have jobs, or a stable economy, without industry. It's not Montanans who got rid of our industry; it's ecowackos and NIMBYs who moved to Montana to get away from all that nasty dirty ugly industry. (Not helped by unions and "deregulation" either, but that's another rant.)

And as observed, industry and jobs means a stable tax base. When industry shrinks, you can replace the lost taxes either by raising taxes on the remaining workers and businesses (causing a further loss of jobs), or by importing people with money to burn and no need to work.

The amount of money spent on schools has no bearing on the quality of education. A good teacher only needs chalk, a blackboard, and fannies in the seats, with the power to discipline those fannies that don't want to stay seated and pay attention. California's schools spend FIVE TIMES as much money per student as Montana schools, yet the state high school dropout rate is 40% and rising, and in Los Angeles it's 60% and rising. Last I checked, the HS dropout rate in Montana was around 10-15%. And I assure you, the education level of the graduates is vastly better in Montana, even with far less money spent per student.

A balanced budget is necessity, unless you want to balance that budget on your children's backs. Every dollar spent by the government is THREE dollars in taxes (because about 70% of gov't income goes to overhead), and every dollar of debt is THREE dollars in future interest payments. So every dollar of government debt today is ultimately NINE dollars out of your kids' wallets. And that's not adjusted for inflation, which is in turn fueled partly by debt. Debt ultimately kills economies, a heavy price for more government services today.

(Without looking it up, I'm guessing the other balanced state budget is North Dakota. Anyone know offhand?)
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Old 05-02-2011, 10:23 AM
 
213 posts, read 598,032 times
Reputation: 180
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reziac View Post
The amount of money spent on schools has no bearing on the quality of education. A good teacher only needs chalk, a blackboard, and fannies in the seats, with the power to discipline those fannies that don't want to stay seated and pay attention. California's schools spend FIVE TIMES as much money per student as Montana schools, yet the state high school dropout rate is 40% and rising, and in Los Angeles it's 60% and rising. Last I checked, the HS dropout rate in Montana was around 10-15%. And I assure you, the education level of the graduates is vastly better in Montana, even with far less money spent per student.

I feel compelled to weigh in here. I do agree that money isn't the only criteria for a good education system, and it probably isn't even the biggest. I am very proud of many of our local schools for doing what they do with so little.

However... imagine what our schools could do if they were better funded? We already have a fabulous base of teachers who are willing to work for low pay because they love what they do - but if you speak to a lot of those teachers, you'll see how frustrated they are that budget constraints keep them from implementing some of their best ideas.

If you'll look closely at schools in Montana, you'll notice that most of them do a pretty good job with your typical, down-the-middle average student. Where the lack of funding really shows is with the exceptional kids on both ends of the scale who may not do well with the traditional curriculum. Our special education and gifted student programs are severely lacking. In Montana, you'd probably find that a significant number of the 10-15% that drop out are very bright kids who aren't challenged, or who have learning differences that are never discovered and worked with. There are so few options for these kids here.

I really believe if our schools had adequate funding we would have some of the best schools in the nation - rather than just "better than California" (which isn't hard to do!)
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Old 05-02-2011, 11:05 AM
 
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
11,855 posts, read 15,494,778 times
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I would love to see as much money that is pumped into sports programs pumped into science and math.

Good science programs take funding.. Lot's of funding. But those schools also produce a lot of great students.

I recall growing up our county had various magnet schools- one high school was a vo-tech, one was science and math, another was literature and arts, another engineering, another languages etc.. The science and math magnet produced a lot of kids that went on to places like Johns Hopkins- almost like a feeder. My wife and I were good friends with a lot of those kids. A lot of them are now in research, medicine, working at Naval Surface Weapons, Goddard Space Flight etc..

Please don't misconstrue my thoughts as "Well, where I came from..." type of attitude.. I just wish we focused as much resources into these types of programs as others. Sports are great, and I love football and baseball (played baseball myself), but let's face it- we're losing our competetive edge in a lot of critical areas...
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Old 05-02-2011, 01:14 PM
 
17 posts, read 113,209 times
Reputation: 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reziac View Post
A pretty fair post but I want to especially emphasize these two points:

You can't have jobs, or a stable economy, without industry. It's not Montanans who got rid of our industry; it's ecowackos and NIMBYs who moved to Montana to get away from all that nasty dirty ugly industry. (Not helped by unions and "deregulation" either, but that's another rant.)

And as observed, industry and jobs means a stable tax base. When industry shrinks, you can replace the lost taxes either by raising taxes on the remaining workers and businesses (causing a further loss of jobs), or by importing people with money to burn and no need to work.

The amount of money spent on schools has no bearing on the quality of education. A good teacher only needs chalk, a blackboard, and fannies in the seats, with the power to discipline those fannies that don't want to stay seated and pay attention. California's schools spend FIVE TIMES as much money per student as Montana schools, yet the state high school dropout rate is 40% and rising, and in Los Angeles it's 60% and rising. Last I checked, the HS dropout rate in Montana was around 10-15%. And I assure you, the education level of the graduates is vastly better in Montana, even with far less money spent per student.

A balanced budget is necessity, unless you want to balance that budget on your children's backs. Every dollar spent by the government is THREE dollars in taxes (because about 70% of gov't income goes to overhead), and every dollar of debt is THREE dollars in future interest payments. So every dollar of government debt today is ultimately NINE dollars out of your kids' wallets. And that's not adjusted for inflation, which is in turn fueled partly by debt. Debt ultimately kills economies, a heavy price for more government services today.

(Without looking it up, I'm guessing the other balanced state budget is North Dakota. Anyone know offhand?)
The other state with a balanced budget was Arkansas , a few years ago anyway. So true about industry needed here and the impact of ecowacks. One are I failed to mention in the original post (and failed to research prior to moving here) the amount of unions and impact. I watched the Libby, MT documentary and have read about the issues in Anaconda and super funds. I understand better the feelings toward industry after studying the history more but why such a strong union area?
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Old 05-02-2011, 02:03 PM
 
Location: SW Montana
233 posts, read 456,747 times
Reputation: 208
Excellent post OP!

I would love to see a candid write-up by a transplant concerning Helena and/or Bozeman.
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Old 05-02-2011, 10:02 PM
 
Location: Approximately 50 miles from Missoula MT/38 yrs full time after 4 yrs part time
2,294 posts, read 3,339,186 times
Reputation: 4824
Quote:
Originally Posted by bongo403 View Post
I feel compelled to weigh in here. I do agree that money isn't the only criteria for a good education system, and it probably isn't even the biggest. I am very proud of many of our local schools for doing what they do with so little.

However... imagine what our schools could do if they were better funded? We already have a fabulous base of teachers who are willing to work for low pay because they love what they do - but if you speak to a lot of those teachers, you'll see how frustrated they are that budget constraints keep them from implementing some of their best ideas.

If you'll look closely at schools in Montana, you'll notice that most of them do a pretty good job with your typical, down-the-middle average student. Where the lack of funding really shows is with the exceptional kids on both ends of the scale who may not do well with the traditional curriculum. Our special education and gifted student programs are severely lacking. In Montana, you'd probably find that a significant number of the 10-15% that drop out are very bright kids who aren't challenged, or who have learning differences that are never discovered and worked with. There are so few options for these kids here.

I really believe if our schools had adequate funding we would have some of the best schools in the nation - rather than just "better than California" (which isn't hard to do!)
......Excellent post..... My daughter is in her 27th year of teaching here in western Montana. Without naming names, she has told me about certain circumstances that she is faced with --almost on a daily basis-- that in some instances are hard to believe. Example: having 28 students in a 4th grade class....and two of the 28 are "special-needs-kids" (developmently challenged), and due to lack of funds in this particular district, they do not have a "special ed person" on the staff.....thus these two kids disrupt the school day on a regular basis (screaming, crying, spitting, fighting, throwing themselves-on-the-floor, etc,etc.) and my daughter has to stop the normal routine of her teaching day and handle the situation at hand. Sad situation!
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