Opinion: Property tax reform is vital want in Missoula and statewide | Columnists

Tschida blames renters for the successes of ballot initiatives, ignoring the fact that a significant portion of rent payments goes to paying for property taxes. Tschida, and others, view residents who rent their dwellings as second-class citizens who don’t bear any property-tax burden, when in fact renters pay the bills for property owners and are subject to market forces, just like homeowners. And those ballot initiatives pay for schools, open spaces, libraries, fire engines and more because local voters value those institutions and services. Our residents demand these services and support paying for them, but going to the same one-legged stool of property taxes is increasingly untenable.

Let’s talk about what the 2021 Legislature did for property tax reform: The legislature passed House Bill 663, which provides for a decrease in state property taxes offset by estimated marijuana revenues. The total funding for this bill statewide is $10 million, which is about 0.5% of all property taxes collected in Montana.

The legislature also reduced business equipment taxes (again). This will have the effect of further shifting the tax responsibility to homeowners and renters. In fact, Missoula’s tax base has shifted from 42.9% residential in 1999 to 59% in 2020. Legislative decisions have a major influence on the makeup of our tax base.