Many Missoulians probably think that the pedestrian bridge over South Reserve was paid for by the recent $42 Million Parks and Trails Bond, but that’s not the case. Instead, the city of Missoula used an Urban Renewal District to help pay for the $4.2 million dollar bridge.

According to Missoula City Councilman Jon Wilkins, that mechanism means that tax base growth from the South Crossing District, which contains the new Cabela’s, Boot Barn, and Petco, won’t go toward helping Missoula meet its general fund obligations anytime soon.

"Once that special Renewal District sunsets then those taxes are distributed to the city, to the schools... which would mean more money in city coffers, and which would hopefully mean that maybe we wouldn't have to raise taxes. I think that people could have crossed at the light there at Reserve like they have been doing for years."

Wilkins says the South Crossing district was set to sunset this year, but that the bridge extended the special district by another 30 years, and will likely lead to Mayor John Engen proposing yet another tax increase on the city.

"Everything goes up," Wilkins said. "The cost of living, the employees, which is our biggest expense... everything goes up. I don't want to say that he is going to raise taxes, but so far, [Engen} has done that every year he's been in there."

Wilkins wasn’t certain, but says that he had heard estimates that the tax base growth in the South Crossing District has clocked in at over 1.5 million dollars, which isn’t hard to imagine considering that before the Urban Renewal District, the South Crossing was mostly filled with an abandoned parking lot and empty buildings.

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