We have long been concerned about the local government removing tax paying properties from the tax rolls. This is a side effect of the mostly the city, but to some extent the county, purchasing or condemning property, which removes them from private ownership, where they pay property taxes, and converting them to city or county property that does not.
A little investigation using the public available tax data demonstrates how bad this has gotten in Missoula County. The City and the County hold $370.5 million in property value by parcels (which likely does not include the $140.4 million the city thought the water company was worth).
We wondered how this compares with other cities in Montana, so Gallatin County, being a roughly similar population, seemed like a reasonably fair comparison. Gallatin County has a few incorporated cities, so we added them all up. Gallatin County comes in at $33.4 million, less than a 10th of what Missoula County has done.
But WAIT, there is more. The city and the county are not the only ones who hold exempt properties. The State of Montana, the Federal government, churches, hospitals and abortion clinics, non-profit organizations, tribes, school districts, etc. also hold properties that are exempt or partially exempt. The astronomical total of exempt property is $1.45 BILLION ($949 million is NOT federal, state, or school district) and partially exempt is an additional $151.5 million.
This information indicates that the city and the county could do something about property taxes the rest of us pay by 1) selling their lands to private companies that pay tax and then stop doing that and 2) review everything that is getting an exemption to make sure that they meet the requirements for the exemption. Is the church being uses for a church? Is the school being used for the school? Does the non-profit justify the exemption?