Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) While the city and county of Missoula prepare their new fiscal year budget, local residents are digging deeper into their pocketbooks to pay their property taxes.

Tyler Gernant, the clerk and treasurer for Missoula County, said second-half taxes are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, or midnight if you pay online and want to avoid the late fee.

But this year's second-half taxes also include 17 additional school equalization mills, giving the state it's full 95 mills.

“These are the second-half taxes, but we added on the 17 mills to get to the full 95 (school equalization) mills. It includes that part and the second-half year of real estate taxes,”Gernant said on Friday.

Last year, the City of Missoula adopted a budget that included $6.3 million in new revenue and increased taxes by 9.7%. The county's budget included $3.6 million in new revenue and increased taxes by 5.4%.

At the same time, the Montana Department of Revenue released its new appraised property values, increasing the value of many homes by as much as 45%. With the local tax increases and the sudden increase in home values, many residents were left with sticker shock.

But another fight over property taxes began to brew when nearly all Montana counties turned to a statute in state law that caps how much local governments can levy when appraised values increase. That led most counties to levy just 77 school equalization mills rather than the full 95 mills.

That drew the ire of Gov. Greg Gianforte and state leaders, who took the issue to the Montana Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of the state, leaving counties to go back to property owners for the 17 additional school equalization mills.

Those are now due by midnight, Gernant said.

“Collecting taxes isn't the best, but usually May isn't as bad as November, because the sticker shock has started to wear off,” said Gernant. “But this year's a little different, so the sticker shock is still there and we also had to send out the supplemental bills to collect the additional 17 mills.”

Those who pay their taxes late are assessed a 2% penalty on the amount due. There's also an ongoing 10% assessment per year. Those who pay through an escrow should have their tax amounts already calculated, but those who pay in person will have to pay by Friday's deadline.

“We send the escrow companies a list of all the taxes, and they pick out the tax ID numbers they're responsible for and make payment on those. It includes the 95 mills,” Gernant said.