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Guest Editorial: Gallatin County Commissioners discuss tax appraisals

From the Gallatin County Commission

Gallatin County property owners were in for a shock earlier this summer when they received new tax appraisals for their homes and commercial properties.

Some folks had the assessed value of their homes increase by 50 or even 100 percent. These were big increases from the last time they were assessed two years ago. Looking at those new assessments, it's easy to expect that your property taxes will also go up by that same percentage.

But that is not the case.

Unfortunately, the "tax estimates" included in the notices by the Montana Department of Revenue were, by the state's own admission, overly inflated, and do not take into consideration caps local governments like ours have on raising taxes.

Our property taxing structure in this state is complex, to put it lightly. When you get your tax bill, you'll see that you're taxed by many different jurisdictions – schools, county, state, special districts, and cities or towns if you live in one. That makes it challenging to dissect how our skyrocketing property values are going to impact and influence all of those different elements that make up your tax bill.

And while we can't tell you exactly what your tax bill will look like when it arrives in November, what we can tell you is that the individual tax impact will likely be much lower than what the state has led you to believe.

The ability of local governments, like cities, counties and school districts, to raise taxes is limited by state law. Our general operating mills can only rise by half the rate of inflation (in this case 2.46%), plus the newly taxable value from new developments and property improvements. In a growing community, when you add all those new residences, the burden will be distributed over more people.

Tax bills look different depending on where in the county you live, but generally Gallatin County's taxes account for 15-30 percent of your total tax bill. Those other buckets – schools, state, special districts and cities or towns – make up the rest.

Property taxes are calculated in mills to distribute the burden across different properties, proportional to the value of those properties. In fiscal year 2023, one county-wide operating mill equaled $451,904. This fiscal year, that same mill is worth $720,021. What that means is because each mill is worth more, the County can levy less mills to generate the same dollar amount.

Additionally, while the county is authorized to levy 39.23 operating mills for FY 2024, the commission has only approved levying 37.32. For our 911 mill levy, we are authorized to levy 15 mills but are opting to only levy 9.45 mills. And for our newest voted levy for the Gallatin Rest Home, voters authorized us up to nine mills but we levied just 7.64 mills. That equates to $6.4 million in taxes we opted not to burden our taxpayers with.

With this budget, our level of critical services for the residents and visitors of Gallatin County won't suffer; departments are getting what they need to operate.

However, we've heard the concerns about property taxes from our residents and recognize the affordability crisis and how the associated escalating real estate values are impacting families. So, we shaped our budget conservatively to take that into account.

The full impact of the new assessed values won't be seen until tax bills come out in November. And that can feel unsettling for sure.

We encourage you to visit itax.gallatin.mt.gov to educate yourself on your own tax bill and where your taxes come from.

And property owners, be sure to apply for your state property tax rebate from the Montana Department of Revenue. Filing is open until Oct. 1. Find all the details at http://www.getmyrebate.mt.gov.

We know that cost-of-living pressures in Gallatin County are making things tough for many, and rising taxes don't help. But we pay taxes too, and our employees, loved ones and friends are all giving us the same feedback about the challenges associated with our county's high cost of living. With that in mind, please rest assured that the Gallatin County Commission is doing our damnedest to keep our impact on your property tax bill as low as possible, while also funding the public health and safety services on which our communities depend.

Be in touch, be well, and please contact our office with any questions: [email protected].

 
 
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