MISSOULA – The Missoula City Council voted unanimously earlier this week to drop the $25 city surcharge on violations of Montana state laws that are processed through Municipal Court.
Council members took this action in response to last week’s Montana Supreme Court decision, which found the city council adopted surcharge to be inappropriate.
Montana law does not expressly authorize a Montana local government to impose its own surcharge on violations of state laws.
Judge Kathleen Jenks and her staff expect to have a refund application form and refund procedure process in place by Nov. 1.
“We want to design a process that will make it easy for people to claim their refunds,” Jenks said. “But that will take us some time.”
Missoula City spokeswoman Ginny Merriam stated in a news release that Judge Jenks and her staff will have to figure out how to staff the effort, which is beyond the capacity of the regular court staff as Missoula Municipal Court is the busiest municipal court in the state.
City staff don’t yet know what the financial impact to the city will be. Court data from the last five years show thousands of transactions involving the surcharge.
Court staff will have to analyze data for the 15 years that the surcharge has been in place. They will also have to work with the changing rate of the surcharge, surcharges that were never collected, name changes of defendants and other complexities.
Merriam says they will continue to notify the public as the work on the refund system progresses, with updates to local media and on the city website.