Claire Peterson

(KPAX) Missoula County homeowners are still seeing tax bills arrive in their mailboxes following last year's high property appraisals.

A new property tax bill was sent out to Missoula County property owners last week — the amended second half to the original bill sent last fall.

A second, amended tax bill is very unusual and will likely never happen again, according to Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant.

This year was unique because of a lawsuit at the Montana Supreme Court. Missoula County, along with 48 other counties, sued the state, saying there should be fewer mills required from each county due to inflation.

Typically, there are 95 state mills, but inflation of property taxes reduced the necessary amount to about 77.5.

The counties wanted to levy only this amount, but the Governor's Office and the Montana Department of Revenue said each county still had to pay the full 95 mill amount.

“There was a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Governor's Office and the Department of Revenue and said yes, counties, you must levee the full 95 mills,” Gernant says. “Unfortunately, that decision was made after 49 out of 56 counties had already sent out their tax bills with the reduced mills in there.”

The first property tax bill sent out to Missoula County reflected the amount only if they had won the Supreme Court case. Since the state won, Missoula County needed to ask for the remaining amount from homeowners.

Missoula County officials knew about the change in property tax amount in November, but they did not choose to send out warning letters to homeowners.

Gernant said letters alerting property taxpayers by mail would have cost thousands of dollars. He also said Missoula County assumed taxpayers would have seen press about the new bills.

With the change, the software companies responsible for creating tax documents for Montanans had to reprogram their software, which is why the bills took months to be mailed out.

Those involved in an Escrow account do not need to worry about the bills right away, as the extra cost will be included in their new mortgage.

Gernant said mortgage companies should be informed of the new cost, but homeowners should reach out directly to their mortgage companies if they have any questions.

Otherwise, the payment is due on the date listed on each bill — May 31, 2024. If a homeowner is enrolled in a tax assistance program, the due date is June 20, although their bill will likely still say May 31.

Mobile homes and private property will not receive this bill.

While property taxes are primarily used to fund school districts, this extra money will not mean extra funds for Missoula County Public Schools.

The tax money is part of school equalization funds, so they are collected by the state and redistributed equally across all public school districts.

Renters in Missoula County may not see immediate effects of this extra property tax bill, but the overall higher appraisals last fall will likely lead to rent increases over the next year.