Missoula Commissioners Talk 2023 Budget and Proposed Tourist Tax
Once a month, the Missoula County Commissioners gather on KGVO to answer questions from listeners and share important information about county policies in a special program called ‘County Talk’.
Due to their early morning meeting schedules, we host the commissioners from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and then replay the program from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., the usual time for Talk Back.
On Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the newly released 2023 budget. Dave Strohmaier described how a taxpayer can directly see where each of their tax dollars is being spent.
“If you go to the homepage of our website, there's a ‘hot searches’ panel in the middle of the screen; go to the property info link and that will take you to a page that you can then select taxes for an individual piece of property,” said Strohmaier. “You can find your property either by typing in your name, you can type in your neighbor's name, you can look at anyone's tax bill in the city, and you can also search by way of a map.”
Strohmaier provided more specific information on how to determine where your tax dollars are being spent.
“There's a whole series of pie charts you can click on for your individual property,” he said. “It will show you precisely what your taxes look like by taxing jurisdiction. If you just want to look at Missoula County taxes, you can see how much of your tax bill went to pay for the fairgrounds or any number of the other services that folks get delivered to their homes and residences.”
Commissioner Josh Slotnick explained how the tax structure in Missoula County has changed over the past 40 years.
“In the 1980s, we had a property tax structure, pretty much exactly the same as right now and it worked out pretty well in a place like Missoula because we had four big mills that had huge footprints,” said Slotnick. “Those mills covered about 30 percent of tax revenue, and residential home values were low, right? To add to it, we didn't really have many tourists. So we had these big industries, basically covering a huge chunk of what it takes to provide services to the citizens of the city and the county.”
Now that those large industries are gone, the entire tax burden now lies with residential property owners. Slotnick proposes what he calls a ‘one-to-one property tax reduction’.
“We're going to tax tourists on things that tourists buy, and then every dollar we generate from those tourists we take $1 off of property taxes,” he said. “We will come up with a mechanism to shield locals in the short term and here’s what we could do. You and I go out to lunch and we pay 3 percent (tax) on our burgers, but at some point, during the year we're going to get a check back for an estimate on how much we would have paid in taxes. We’re talking beer, wine, restaurant food, music, tickets, Air B and B, bars, or things only tourists buy.”
Clear here to listen to the entire County Talk discussion.