Two Opposing Views on CI-121 to Fix Montana’s Property Taxes
Constitutional Initiative 121 titled ‘Cap Montana Property Taxes’, taps into the deep resentment by Montana property owners over the rapid rise in property values, leading to what many feel are unsustainable property taxes.
Congressional candidate Dr. Al Olszewski is a proponent of the initiative.
“Our property taxes will not increase by 10, 20 or 30 percent every other year,” said Dr. Olszewski. “Rather, they can only increase no more than 2 percent a year and your property taxes cannot exceed 1 percent of your property value. So a house that was worth $200,000 would only be able to be taxed at a maximum of $2,000 a year.”
Dr. Olszewski said the onus would be on the Montana legislature to fix what he called ‘our broken property tax system’.
“If you read Constitutional Initiative 121, it merely tells the legislators that they have to fix the property tax system,” he said. “You have to value it at what you paid for it or if you've owned it for more than five years, what its value was before the Coronavirus pandemic drove our property prices too high.”
One of the opponents of the initiative is State Senator Greg Hertz, who said CI-121 does not treat all real estate owners fairly.
“Everybody's concerned about property taxes in Montana but this Constitutional Initiative 121 is just not the answer or the solution mainly because it shifts taxes from one taxpayer to another,” said Hertz.
Hertz provided examples of why he sees CI-121 as being unfair.
“What will happen is that city taxpayers’ share of county and school taxes because of the 1 percent cap will now be shifted to county taxpayers,” he said. “So now all of a sudden, as a county taxpayer, my taxes are going up, and that's not really fair. In addition, that city taxpayer will still be able to vote on levies to continue to raise taxes, which could impact my taxes as a county taxpayer.”
Hertz said property tax relief is definitely on the agenda for the next legislative session.
"We have taxpayer assistance programs right now set up," he said. "And a lot of those, though, are based on old valuations of when the average price of the home was about $200,000. So we need to increase that so more people become eligible. And with inflation, we need to increase eligibility limits to as to who qualifies for low income. So most likely we'll be looking at some of those surpluses. We have set up a pool and going forward so we can relieve the taxes on on those elderly and low income individuals."
KGVO pointed out to Senator Hertz a KGVO News story that revealed a nearly $400 million surplus from tax revenues in which Hertz said those monies should be returned to the taxpayers. KGVO suggested that the surplus might be applied to rising property taxes.