Kalispell Man Seeks Cap on Homeowner Property Tax Increases

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – A Kalispell man is proposing a constitutional initiative that would limit homeowner property tax increases to 1.5 percent a year, hoping to blunt an increase that could take place after the next statewide reappraisal.

John McMenamin said the ballot measure would limit tax increases only on owner-occupied homes and would only allow reappraisals for property tax purposes when homes are sold.

McMenamin said Wednesday he’s pushing the constitutional amendment because he fears state and local governments will use next year’s reappraisal of property to increase property taxes.

Growth areas like the Flathead Valley will see their newly appraised property values soar, he said.

“I’m estimating that my property taxes will double,” he said Wednesday.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who is seeking re-election next year, has promised legislation that would prevent any residential property tax increase because of an ongoing reappraisal that will take effect in 2009. Montana homes are reappraised for tax purposes every six years.

“We’ve made an early commitment to ensure there is no property tax increase due to reappraisal, measured on a statewide basis,” said state Revenue Director Dan Bucks.

McMenamin, however, said he can’t be sure that Schweitzer and the Legislature would keep that promise.

McMenamin’s ballot measure has been submitted to the secretary of state and other state officials for review. He said he hopes to be ready to gather signatures within the next two weeks.

To qualify the constitutional initiative for the 2008 ballot, McMenamin and his supporters must gather at least 44,615 signatures of registered voters statewide, including the signatures of at least 10 percent of the registered voters in each of at least 40 state House districts.

A similar measure on the 1994 ballot in Montana failed with 58 percent of the voters against it.

State law currently limits the amount of property taxes collected by city and county governments to increases of no more than half the average rate of inflation over the past three years, plus taxes on new property, said Dan Dodds, tax policy analyst for the Department of Revenue.