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Superintendent Arntzen Warns Taxpayers and Schools of ‘DEFCON Four’ Trigger in State Budget

BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo courtesy of BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen is warning homeowners that changes in the recent budget passed by the legislature will likely cause a spike in property taxes. The tax crunch will be worse in areas, like Missoula, which have passed recent bonds for schools as well.

“They are going to see a shift,” Arntzen said. “They are going to see their property values have increased… when that school gets built that propensity for that bond is going to be there, but also, then that tax shift is coming from the removal of a state priority which is basically Data for Achievement: a close to $6.3 million shift that is going into property taxes.”

Arntzen has been carefully watching the state budget and a series of triggers that were put in place under Senate Bill 261, which can cause a reduction in state spending if certain revenue projections aren’t met. Arntzen is warning schools that they may feel the sting.

“It sets in four triggers, we call them DEFCONs and, I tell you, we are reaching DEFCON 4, Arntzen said. “Again, I just caution everybody, August 15 is going to be when revenue estimates are going to be verified and property tax people, our county treasurers, are going to be looking at that. Our school budgets right now are going to be put into play and this is all about an uneasiness.”

Debates over revenue projections are nothing new, but the triggers from Senate Bill 261 are a new tactic that was put in place after rosy revenue projections from the prior biennium under performed leaving legislators with a severely constrained budget.

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