My Plan on Property Taxes
- Property taxes are too high for the average Missoulian, plain and simple.
- Working with the state legislature to fix our broken tax system is not enough.
- I’m committed to a priority-based budgeting approach for Missoula.
Taking a Clear-Eyed Look at the City Budget
We are on an untenable path in Missoula. However much we hear about a broken tax system at the state level, we need to consider our local budget process as well—because that’s something we can actually control. Property taxes are almost the only tax revenue local governments collect, which means the burden of funding our services, such as police, fire, roads, and even sewer primarily falls on residential properties in Missoula. The state legislature helped create these problems, but we can’t wait for them to solve them. Missoula homeowners and renters need relief now.
I will implement a Priority Based Budgeting approach to our city budget, identifying programs that offer the highest value to our residents and fund them appropriately, while reducing or eliminating service levels of areas outside our identified priorities.
The community, not simply the mayor and council, needs to help guide our priorities. I am committed to an inclusive zero-based budgeting process for every city department at least once in a four-year term.
With no change to our system in sight, Missoula needs to prepare for some soul-searching over the next year. We need to take a clear-eyed look at wants versus needs and recognize that will almost certainly mean cuts to programs and services popular with some.
We must face some tough decisions head-on and determine if we are stretched too thin as a community. I would like to see a more priority-based approach that identifies our core services and sets criteria to evaluate success across our programmatic efforts, helping us determine what is working and what is not.
Just because we can’t count on the state legislature to help us fix this property taxes mess, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We must do whatever we can to work with the legislature to develop and implement broader relief for residential property taxpayers, particularly considering the state has a billion-dollar revenue surplus. State action remains the most impactful way for us to change our current unsustainable situation.
Everywhere I have been—private, public, and non-profit—there have been times we were forced to cut spending, to evaluate existing programs, to hold positions open, and even make cuts when revenues decreased.
We have serious challenges ahead of us. We can't afford everything we are doing. Priorities change, needs change, and programs, once crucial, may have run their course. Leadership is about recognizing when we aren’t doing something as well as we could and embracing the opportunity to improve. It won’t be easy, but together we can make good things happen for Missoula in an equitable and sustainable manner.
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