Missoula County tax values come in high, property owners likely to save

New construction across Missoula County, coupled with higher property values, boosted the county’s budget this week. Both county-wide and county-only mill values came in well above estimates, effectively eliminating a proposed county tax increase. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Missoula County received a significant boost in taxable values released by the Montana Department of Revenue this month, which even with the library bond, could spell a tax break for many property owners.

Andrew Czorny, the county’s chief financial officer, said countywide mill values came in 7.1 percent higher this year, while county-only mill values came in 5.9 percent higher.

Both exceeded Czorny’s expectations.

“Countywide mill values include those in the city, which we get a portion of,” Czorny said on Friday. “It came in 7.1 percent higher this year, and I had projected 1.8 percent. It was a big windfall. The county-only mill values were 5.9 percent higher, and I had projected just 1.4 percent.”

While Czorny is still working through this year’s budget revenues, the boost in taxable values will enable the county to decrease the number of mills it will assess.

Exactly how much, Czorny said, has not been determined, though it bodes well for the county’s $133 million budget.

“It provides quite a bit more revenue,” Czorny said. “In our preliminary budget, we had originally asked for a 7.1 percent mill levy increase. That’s been completely erased. Now we’re looking at a potential decrease in the mill-levy ask.”

How the figures play out could serve as a boost to many property owners, particularly those who saw the assessed value of their home decrease this year. The Department of Revenue released the latest assessment for all Montana properties this month.

“If your assessed valuation went up, you’ll pay more in taxes, but if it went down, you’ll pay less,” Czorny said. “That’s a function of the Department of Revenue. You have to look at your particular property and see what your assessed value did.”

Earlier this week, the city of Missoula also saw a boost in tax valuations – something city leaders attributed to new construction. While the city had anticipated a 3.8 percent tax increase to cover its Fiscal Year 2018 budget, taxes instead will slightly decrease.

The owner of a $250,000 home in the city that saw no change in assessed value should expect to see a tax decrease of roughly $7.30. Czorny expects the decrease in county taxes to be even larger.

The final figures should be in place by the end of next week.

“There are two components to the assessment, and one is newly taxable properties,” Czorny said. “Those are brand new properties that have been constructed and finally made it onto the tax rolls. That’s what we’re looking for, and that’s what gives us the ability to have additional mills to levy.”

Czorny attributed the second component to an increase in assessed market value, which is a function of the Department of Revenue.

“It’s the reappraisal that has taken place,” he said. “About 24 percent of our mill levy increase was newly taxable properties and 76 percent was due to increases in assessed market values.”

Missoula Mayor John Engen this week said record-setting construction in the city should lead to several years with an increase in newly taxable properties. That provides the city with additional revenue, giving it another way to cover basic services rather than raising taxes on property owners.

Czorny offered a similar projection, saying the years ahead could see additional increases in new taxable values.

“I’d hoped for a little higher in the newly taxable numbers, but I think that’s still coming down the line,” he said. “I think we have some good years ahead of us. I hope newly taxable numbers continue to increase every year.”