Where Does it All Go?

By Beacon Staff

You may have already forgotten about them, or you may still be fuming about them. Either way, take a moment to delight in the fact that it will be another 10 or 11 months before you have to pay property taxes again.

Flathead County sent out 59,091 tax bills for real estate, mobile homes and businesses in the valley, raising $108,413,648. Just for kicks, the Beacon asked County Auditor Paula Robinson to break down the distribution of that money. The collection and distribution of taxes, she warned, is complex, but the accompanying graph provides, in the broadest of strokes, where the money goes.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about Flathead’s property taxes, according to Robinson, is that most of the money collected goes toward funding county operations – the idea that those buildings you circle around on your drive into and out of Kalispell are full of entrenched bureaucrats, doing the work of one person with a team of five.

But a breakdown of 2006 real estate taxes for Flathead County reveals that money distributed for the region’s schools take up almost two-thirds of the funds collected, totaling $62,776,338. Kalispell’s School District #5 takes the biggest chunk of that money and Marion’s Pleasant Valley School receives the least.

Spending for “County Functions,” with $26,491,161, doesn’t even total half of education’s slice of the pie, but what, exactly, are “County Functions”?

This category includes everything from road maintenance to Search and Rescue to noxious weed control to the library. The Sheriff’s department gets the largest portion of this with $5,359,988 in property tax revenues. Along with a fee-based fund, the county landfill collected a total of $3,838,505.

The “Other Taxes and Fees” category comprises mainly 18 volunteer fire districts, streetlights and sewer districts. The Columbia Falls cemetery is allotted $19,840; Fairview cemetery receives $34,691.