Missoula mayor proposes 3.8% tax increase in 2018 budget


MISSOULA, Mont. - A previous version of this story indicated the mayor would request an 18-percent tax increase. However, in his letter to the city council, the mayor writes, "The total increase we're recommending is 3.87 percent, based on a conservative growth estimate of 3.25 percent, modest growth in fee revenue and a reduction in fund-balance growth." The mayor goes on to indicate if all considered programs that require tax money were approved, it would require an additional $6.1 million, "which would require a tax increase of 18.48 percent."

The 2018 Missoula fiscal budget includes a tax increase of 3.87 percent, according to budget documents on the city's website and a letter that Missoula Mayor John Engen addressed to the City Council.

The budget has gone through most committees, and Monday the council set a date for a public hearing on budget items. The public hearing is an opportunity for members of the public to come and comment. The hearing is scheduled for June 26.

A report on the city's website says Missoula residents who own a $250,000 home will pay around $28 more next year in property taxes.

Engen says the money will fund "critical items" that have been on the city's waiting list for several years. Items include two additional specialists in the Missoula Police Department, crime-victim services, compensation, street projects, new facilities at Fort Missoula, updates to court technologies and more.

In a letter to the city, Engen writes that there are many other projects the city would like to fund.

"If revenues increase significantly, we'll bring further recommendations to council for consideration. In all, our new requests requiring tax revenues, all of which have merit, totaled $6,140,138, which would require a tax increase of 18.48%. We believe we made difficult choices based on the information we have and chose not to put council in in the untenable position of hacking away at these requests with no clear picture of actual revenues."

Some residents at Monday's meeting say they have concerns over whether Missoulians will be able to afford the tax increase.

"Can people on fixed incomes still maintain their increases and still retain their homes?" one Missoula resident asked during public comment.

Resident Kandi Matthew-Jenkins said, "Where (this) money (is) coming from is my main concern, because I know from history we didn't have budgets like this and the push for funding and expansion. That doesn't speak well for the taxpayers of Missoula."

The council anticipates the final budget approval at the end of July, according to their calendar.

You can read the mayor's full letter here.

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