BILLINGS — A new set of property valuations is causing heartburn for homeowners across Montana, with proposed property taxes hovering around a 40% increase for 2023.
The 2023 property classifications and appraisal notices from the Montana Department of Revenue hit mailboxes in June, indicating the start of a two-year cycle in which the department sets value rates for residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial properties. Forest land, in comparison, is valued in six-year cycles. Along with the appraisal notice comes an estimate of property taxes.
While the Montana Department of Commerce estimates the general taxes, individual county treasurers actually set and collect the taxes in the fall, meaning the letter property owners received in June might not actually be what they will pay.
It's a process that Eric Dietrich, a reporter and deputy editor with the Montana Free Press, has been following closely.
"We just don't know yet. There are other things that need to happen before the final number can be calculated," Dietrich said.
Dietrich said statewide property values this assessment cycle are up more than 40%, which reflects trends in the broader Montana housing market, but that likely won't be the actual rate of change Montanans see on their bills in the fall.
"The reality is when everybody's tax value goes up, at the same time, that grows the tax base and means that schools, counties and the people that collect taxes can assess a lower tax rate and bring in the same amount of money," Dietrich said.
"The reality is likely, come November, you'll be seeing less on your tax bill."
For homeowners opening their assessments in June, the proposed tax hikes were an unwelcome shock.
"My value had gone up from the year before, $118,000, with zero improvements done to the house during that time period," said Bob Bloedel, a Shepherd resident and semi-retired contractor who built his home on a 'little slice of heaven' with his own two hands.
Bloedel says he is on a fixed income on Social Security and says based on the tax appraisal, he's not sure his family can stay.
"It will kill us, if it even goes up $100 per month," Bloedel said.
The options for homeowners now: appeal your appraisal if it makes sense, something Bloedel says he did immediately.
The other option, Dietrich said, is to remember your taxes are not yet final.
“Really the big thing to do is to take a deep breath and wait until the fall when you get the formal tax bill, and that's when you actually know what types of increases you'll be looking at," Dietrich said.
The Montana Department of Revenue does offer property tax assistance programs, which you can find at MTRevenue.gov.