Tax Relief or Cover Up?

Remember that this increase will be permanent, whereas the postcard rebate that you have to apply for is temporary

By Ellen Sullivan

Did you all get the red, white, and blue postcard in the mail advertising that we can apply for property tax relief (up to $675) by filling out a form? Did you also get the property tax assessment that says our taxes are going up dramatically? The first is a temporary coverup of the latter. 

According to former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, prior to the Montana Legislature going into session, “the Montana Department of Revenue warned the Legislature and governor that home appraisals had increased by 43 percent and unless they took action, property taxes were going to rise substantially.” Instead of voting to provide tax relief and mitigate this oncoming tax increase, they spent much of the state’s surplus on providing a temporary tax refund that you have to apply for in order to receive. On top of that, the tax assessment notification appears to come from the county. It did not. It is a state led appraisal process and state law only allows local governments to raise spending by a small percent unless voted on by local voters. The extra money will go to the state of Montana to be spent on who knows what?

It’s not too late. In a recent guest opinion published in newspapers around Montana, Schweitzer suggested that “the Republican legislative leaders and the governor need to call a press conference and admit they made a mistake in raising your property taxes. They need to work with the Revenue Department to craft a one-page bill … that would stop this property tax increase on homeowners,” he wrote. And lastly, call “a one-day session, pass the bill to stop the property tax increase and go home.”

Remember that this increase will be permanent, whereas the postcard rebate that you have to apply for is temporary, providing one year of relief and at the same time wiping out the state’s surplus that could be put to good work and programs in need.

In the meantime, I will apply for the property tax refund and donate it to nonprofits who serve Lincoln County, like the food pantry, volunteer fire and ambulance, Friends of the Shelter, Sunburst Arts & Education and more. At least I can put my tax money to work in my community in the way I would like. I challenge my community members to do the same. And ask your legislators and governor to do what is right and stop this dramatic rise in property taxes. They have the power to do so but do they have the will?

Ellen Sullivan