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Monday conversation: The latest on politics in Missoula

Posted at 10:58 AM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 13:14:24-04

MISSOULA — Martin Kidston of the Missoula Current joined us during Montana This Morning on Monday to talk about city and county politics.

The budget process is underway with the City of Missoula and Mayor John Engen having proposed a variety of investments.

“The executive budget is broken down into a number of categories, ranging from educational excellence to housing and wellness,” Kidston explained. “On the housing front, the city is considering a number of investments, including about $2.4 million to an affordable housing trust fund.”

“It's looking to spend about $800,000 for regulatory reform, and one may suggest that it will have the longest impact. It will streamline the housing effort across the city,” Kidston continued.

“On the wellness front, it is looking to spend about $1.4 million to boost its mobile crisis support team. It's also looking to spend $1.4 million on safe outdoor shelters and about $800,000 on veterans' programs. A lot of them are kind of socially driven, so we will see how it all plays out next week when the city comes together to decide on its 2022 budget.”

Mayor Engen recently said it looks like the tax base is back to pre-pandemic numbers. The city is also counting on about $14 million in ARPA funds. So, it looks like they have a little bit of money to work with.

“The taxable value of property across the county grew by about 15% this year. The county's new taxable property also expanded, based upon on all the new construction you are seeing,” Kidston said. “That means those properties have come on to the tax rolls. So that's a good thing for the county.

“The challenge for the city and county continues to be the reappraisal process. That drove up property values across the county. I think that is going to allow them to keep their mill levies without any increases there. The city is actually looking to reduce its mill values, which would bring a very minimal drop in property taxes for the average person, almost insignificantly so,” Kidston said.

“But at the same time, most people are going to see an increase in property taxes because of the increase in their properties value, even though the city and county are holding their mills,” he added.

The City of Missoula recently approved a resolution supporting the JEDI program, which stands for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

“It's difficult to understand. It's basically a principle or a philosophy that the city wants to stand upon. This is what we believe in. Just about everybody believes in the principle of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion,” Kidston explained. “That hasn't been the debate, but whether government actually needs a resolution to tax people to reach justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.”

“Opponents believe it's signal calling and socialism. Some say it's necessary because of our history and the direction that we've come from,” Kidston continued. “They also say opponents are opposed to it based out of fear. And of course, saying people are fearful doesn't go over too well. I think that's where the controversy lies.”

We discuss happening in Missoula with Missoula Current editor Martin Kidston Mondays on Montana This Morning. Click here to read more from the Missoula Current.