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Missoula mayor tells city council tax values are lower than expected

Missoula City Council (File photo)

A Missoula City Council member is frustrated after the mayor announced he needs more time to set next year’s budget.

Mayor John Engen sent an email to council members Tuesday saying the certified tax values from the state revenue department are far less than he expected. He went on to say he needs to talk to the state about what he calls a “counterintuitive decrease in taxable values” citywide.

He told the council his staff needs to approach this next budget differently.

The city is on a timeline. The budget has to be adopted by Sept. 3.

The budget committee was supposed to meet Wednesday about the executive budget, but the mayor canceled it so he could have more time to look over the numbers.

“Ultimately right now we’re in another low phase from 2017 to 2018 where we’re not going to see much of an increase, so I don’t know why they’re relying on such a higher increase from the state, when ultimately it is two-year evaluation cycles. So the fact that they didn’t plan for it is just beyond me,” said City Council Member Jesse Ramos.

The city’s chief administrative officer said Engen was sick Wednesday, but Dale Bickell explained the city just needs more time to look over the numbers. He said it’s too early to know the outcome.

“We received our certified taxable values from the state on Friday afternoon, and there were a couple things. One, they were lower than we expected, related to the change in newly taxable value, and the other thing is we’re having some trouble reconciling some of the numbers, you know, that -- we just wanted to make sure that they make sense, and we couldn’t get that accomplished in time for today’s meeting, so we postponed a week in order to try to making sure we understand those numbers and getting those reconciliations completed,” said Bickell.

Bickell said it likely means the city won’t be able to fund all the new budget requests.

"I can’t say at this point what that is going to mean. So throughout the summer the council has held budget hearings or, you know, budget meetings related to new requests, and to the extent that there is less money available, there will be less new requests funded, certainly," said Bickell.

“Ultimately what I want to see happen is I want to see the city spend less money. I want them to take this as a sign that the taxpayers are not a bottomless pit, and they cannot continue to fork over their hard-earned money to the city government," said Ramos.

Ramos went on to say he believes the mayor’s budget was built on property valuations and the idea the value of a mill would be worth more. That increase could mean more money from taxpayers.

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