MISSOULA — With a few subtle changes, Missoula County on Thursday adopted its Fiscal Year 22 budget, one that maintains basic services and will increase property taxes slightly to cover health insurance costs and a base salary increase for the county’s lowest earners.
But larger tax increases also are coming, and they’re fueled by a significant jump in reappraisal values conducted by the state earlier this year. That alone will increase the county’s portion of property taxes on a $350,000 home by $140 a year.
Amanda Henthorne, the county’s budget analyst, said that doesn’t account for tax increases representing the city and Missoula County Public School’s portion of a tax bill – also a result of higher appraisal values.
“Montana DOR reappraisal is completed every two years,” said Henthorne. “This fiscal year, the average Missoula County reappraisal was 15% higher. There are other taxing jurisdiction that impact that total calculation, including MCPS, the city and statewide schools.”
Outside the reappraisal costs, the budget adopted by the county will increase property taxes by $10.21 for a $350,000 home outside city limits. Residents inside the city will see no tax increases resulting from the county’s budget.
“The county reviewed over 100 new requests for funding this year,” said Henthorne. “Items approved were added to the budget and the ones that we’re not are over $2.6 million.”
Total revenues this fiscal year stand at $171 million, with $91.8 million representing “other” revenues such as permitting fees, grants, and federal or state allocations. Roughly $59 million stems from property taxes.
In contrast, the county budget includes $173.8 million in spending, with personnel accounting for $82.6 million and operations at $63.7 million. Capital expenditures amount to $5.8 million. The county plans to cover the difference between expenditures and revenues with cash savings from prior years.
“One of the hallmarks we got to this year was a $15 per hour starting minimum wage for all long-term, permanent positions at the county,” said Henthorne. “We also had a 3% health insurance cost increase this year. Just like everywhere else, we’re subject to increases in prescription drug pricing and all the other things that can contribute to that.”
Over the last fiscal year, the county also has spent more than $14 million for testing, vaccinating and contact tracing, along with other Covid mitigation measures. Those costs are expected to linger into the new fiscal year.
“All that money has been reimbursed from parts of state and federal programs,” said Henthorne. “It has mitigated the need for us to raise our taxes locally, and we expect that to continue this next fiscal year.”