Missoula County Commissioners will be seeking comments from the public on whether to propose a special election to consider a three percent local-option sales tax on sales of recreational marijuana.

Missoula County Chief Administrative Officer Chris Lounsbury spoke to KGVO News on Monday.

“The county commissioners will hold a public hearing to determine if the residents of Missoula County will vote on a three percent excise tax, much like a sales tax, but in Montana we call them an excise tax on the sale of marijuana after January 1, when both recreational and medicinal marijuana will be available in the state of Montana,” said Lounsbury.

Lounsbury provided an estimate of how much could be collected through such an excise tax.

“We don't have an exact number,” he said. “What we have are estimates that were done as part of the legislative process, and so that puts the number in Missoula County is between $300,000 and $400,000 that would be raised when we look at that split, which is 50% to the county and 45% to the city, so the county would get somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 if those projections are correct, but again, they're just an estimate.”

Lounsbury explained where the tax monies would be allocated.

“The money can be used for really any general government purpose, but what the commissioners are looking at, particularly, is that Missoula County is experiencing quite a growth in valuations as well as the growth and need for services,” he said. “We see increased pressure on mental health services on our various prevention programs, and so they're really looking at ways that this money can be targeted to help address some of those needs in the community, such as around property tax increases and around the needs for mental health services and those other things.”

Lounsbury explained why the election has to be called by the commissioners at this time.

“The commissioners will be making that decision,” he said. “It will be what we call a special election in this case across the county because it will be county wide. Normally in odd numbered years like this, we don't have a countywide election. So it'll either be conducted with the city's primary election, if the city has a primary election, or in the November election. If the city does not have a primary, and I believe the city council will be voting on that tonight, then we'll have a better idea when we have this meeting on July 1.”

Commissioners will take constituent comments until their administrative public meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 6, when they will vote on whether to approve the resolution.

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