Kalispell Man Seeks Initiative to Cap Property Taxes

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A Kalispell man says he will try again to limit property tax increases with a constitutional initiative but is changing his strategy in hopes of getting it on the ballot next year.

John McMenamin failed last year to get enough signatures for placing a measure on the ballot that would have capped homeowners’ property tax increases at 1.5 percent a year.

This time he is taking a different tact, proposing to limit increases in the assessed value at about 3 percent per year.

To qualify for the 2010 ballot, McMenamin needs at least 48,674 voters’ signatures and 10 percent of the total voters in 40 of the 100 state House districts.

McMenamin, 61, is withdrawing an early version he sent to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office for approval, so he can adjust his method.

“Rather than putting on a limit on the property taxes, we’d put a limit on increase in assessed value on an annual basis,” he said.

Statewide, residential property values rose by an average by 54 percent, with the increases varying widely by county and within particular counties in the latest reappraisal process.

Rep. Mike Jopek, D-Whitefish, worked in the 2009 Legislature on the bill that aims to ease the sting of the increased values, before denouncing the effort after Senate Republicans rewrote it.

“If the initiative was this simple and contained these elements, I could vote for it,” Jopek said. “Or they may choose to write it as simply another tax break to out-of-state developers and out-of-state McMansion owners. Time will tell.”

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