City officials alert residents to special tax district protest


MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula officials are reminding property owners to pay attention to the protest period for a special tax district.

Last month about 24,000 property owners received a seven-page mailing from the city, including a letter from Mayor John Engen, saying he proposed the Public Safety and Justice tax district. The district would pay for updates to equipments and facilities for city police and fire.

Property owners have until June 20 to protest the district. Supporters say the city needs the money. But opponents don't like that there's no cap.

Either way, some say the instructions for residents can be confusing.

"I think it may have been kind of overwhelming by design. When things are overwhelming, people might tend to throw them in the trash. I just think it's really important that people do take a look at the special district protest and give it some thought," said Missoula City Council Member Adam Hertz. "I'm encouraging people to protest the district simply to let the voters decide. So if more than 10 percent of property value in the city is protested it will go to the November election and the voters in the city will get to decide whether or not they want to implement this special district."

Engen proposed the tax district. Wednesday he said the intent was not to overwhelm property owners but to make sure they have enough information to make a decision.

"We certainly don't want to overwhelm anyone, which again is why if you're looking at that material and you think ‘I just don't get it', we've got human beings available to talk to you," Engen said. "That's why we also have a 2-month protest period. There's a lot of time for you to consider this. We elected to err on the side of providing more information than less."

If city council receives protests from the owners for 50 percent or more of the cost of the district, the council can't move forward with the district for at least a year.

If city council receives protests for more than 10 percent, but less than 50 percent of the cost of the district, and the council decides to move forward with the district, they have to have a public vote.

The council is holding a public hearing on the district in July.

So far the city officials say they've received just 900 protest forms back, from the 24,000 that were sent out.

For more information on the district click here, or call the city at 552-6083.