County seeks additional $2.6 million in 2018 budget; tax breaks depend on appraisals
Missoula County will seek an additional $2.6 million in revenue to cover expenses related to wages, departmental requests and a lawsuit, though it will levy fewer mills to do so thanks to a boost in newly taxable properties.
Commissioners gathered for their final budget hearing on Thursday and are expected to adopt the Fiscal Year 2018 budget next week, one that will offer some property owners a tax decrease while others see an increase.
“Taxable values increased by a margin larger than anticipated, which is always great,” said Andrew Czorny, the county's chief financial officer. He added that newly taxable properties buoyed this year's figures. “That's money that has never been on the tax rolls and is coming on for the first time.”
According to Czorny's final figures, countywide mills grew by 7.1 percent, bringing in $14.5 million in revenue. Of that, roughly $3.4 million resulted from newly taxable properties.
County-only mills also increased 5.9 percent to $5.4 million, of which $2.1 million was related to newly taxable properties. The value of a county-only mill currently stands at $97,500 while a countywide mill is valued at $219,300, up from $208,400 last year.
The result, Czorny said, changed a projected 7.01 increase in mills in the preliminary budget to a decrease of 1.03 mills in the final budget.
“We added a couple new items in there as well and still maintained this decrease in mill levies,” Czorny said. “But even though you're seeing a mill-levy decrease, taxes are still increasing.”
The county is required by law to boost funding in a number of areas, including an increase of 1.1 mills to pad the peace officers' retirement plan. The county must also levy 1.05 mills to cover a $2.4 million settlement with property owners regarding a failed subdivision in Grant Creek.
Other increases are optional but equally necessary, commissioners said. They include an increase of .98 mills for Relationship Violence Services and .89 mills to stabilize the Missoula County Sheriff Department's budget.
Czorny said the county is also working to build an asset replacement fund.
“We're going to be taking inventory of existing county assets and their useful lives and where they are in those useful lives, and we'll calculate a replacement cost and develop a model and allocate that countywide,” Czorny said. “We'll start with 1 countywide mill to kick of the program.”
A number of voter-approved general obligation bonds have also hit the tax rolls, including the $42 million Fort Missoula Regional Park. That requires 13.6 mills levied against a home valued at $250,000.
The $20 million library bond also saw the first installment issued this year at $3 million, requiring .98 mills. The remaining amount will be issued next year. At the same time, several bonds will also fall away, including the 1996 jail bond and the Risk Management Fund, cutting 5.6 mills next calendar year.
In summary, Czorny said, some property owners will see a tax cut while others will face an increase.
“If you own a median-priced home valued at $250,000 in Missoula and the taxable value remained unchanged during this year's appraisal cycle, you'll see a 1.02 mill decrease,” Czorny said. “That would result in a $3.41 decrease in county taxes.”
Commissioner are expected to adopt the final budget next Thursday.