Missoula: Overtaxed

Tanner Avery

Director of The Center for New Frontiers

Tanner Avery
/ Blog
November 11, 2021

Missoula: Overtaxed

Property taxes have long been a common discussion across Montana, but some residents may have a reason to feel that their property taxes are rising faster.

“Taxes have to be paid by the public. They cannot be imposed on any class. There is no power that can prevent a distribution of the burden. The landlord may be the one who sends a check to the public treasury, but his tenants nevertheless make the payment.”   – Former President Calvin Coolidge

Missoula residents in particular have been especially hit hard with seemingly relentless property taxes increases. Despite the City of Missoula’s attempt to justify their property taxes, some residents are still seeing property taxes increase faster than both the state of Montana’s average yearly increase and the national average yearly property tax increases.

Our new analysis takes three Missoula homes estimated to be close to the city’s median home price from earlier in the year of $420,000, then calculates the average yearly increase in property taxes from 2007 to 2020. The numbers are an eye-opener for those denying that property taxes have risen.

The report found that the average yearly increase in each home’s property taxes from 2016 to 2020 were 7.4%, 8%, and 6.5%. These increases are considerably higher than Montana’s average yearly property tax increase of 5% and drastically higher than the national yearly property tax increase average of roughly 3.2%. While it may seem small, a few percentage point increase over the national average could amount to a difference of thousands of dollars for many homeowners over ten years. 

Why then have property taxes increased so much faster in Missoula? The answer shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise – it’s largely due to Missoula’s voracious spending. Missoula’s budget has grown 128% faster than the growth of population plus inflation. The growth of Missoula’s budget means that the city must increase taxes to meet their constitutional requirement to balance their budget. 

Missoula’s obsession with breaking its own reckless spending record may lead the city to its demise as residents continue to be taxed out of their own homes. Spending increases have to be paid for by someone, skyrocketing property taxes are a telltale sign that a city’s spending is out of control. Missoulians should hold officials accountable for their reckless spending by demanding that they implement reforms to limit the growth of spending.

For Liberty,

Tanner Avery

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