The Missoula Board of County Commissioners officially adopted the fiscal year 2019 budget totaling $183 million on Thursday afternoon.

Chief Financial Officer Andrew Czorny said there was an 11.07 mil levy increase, and of that number 6.59 mils are for the voter approved bonds for the new library, and 4.48 mils cover essential county services.

Reacting to the complaints that property taxes are too high, Commissioner Cola Rowley reminded those at the meeting that the citizens of Missoula city and county can’t seem to keep from voting to increase their own taxes.

“We have to keep in mind that more of it was raised because of voter approved levies,” said Rowley. “These national stories that say Missoula pays such high property taxes is because Missoula votes ‘yes’ for everything. They choose to tax themselves, and then it’s not fair to expect the Board of County Commissioners to decrease all our central services to counterbalance the fact that the voters continuously but bonds on themselves.”

Case in point, the Parks and Recreation bond was $42 million, the MCPS combined school levies were $158 million and the recently passed library bond is $35 million. In addition, a $10 million open space bond will be on the November ballot for voters to consider.

One option brought up by Commissioner Jean Curtiss was a local option sales tax, or what is called a resort tax.

“We have 11 million visitors that come to Montana every year and they spend a thousand dollars a day or more, and we’re not getting any of that to help up provide all the services,” said Curtiss.

In addition, Curtiss brought up a sensitive topic, a general statewide sales tax.

“People don’t even know that our state constitution limits a sales tax to no more than four percent, so we don’t have to be scared that we’re going to look like Washington, D.C. with 22 percent. We can start thinking about it. I hope you’ll start talking to your neighbors and I hope that you’ll pull out your constitutions and see that it really does say four percent in there.”

Missoula City Councilor Julie Armstrong made the same point to her constituents that the bulk of the city taxes they pay are from issues they voted for and approved.

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