Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jim Eshleman

Property tax or highway robbery?

Simply Biased

As I paid my property tax on Thursday, Nov. 30, I was not a happy camper. Rather, I was in shock when I saw that my tax had increased by more than 70 percent – from $1,295 last year to $2,210. I could understand a small increase, but this is reaching the point of highway robbery.

Digging into the issue, I found that the market value of my property went up since 2016 from $65,000 to $118,960 – an increase of $53,960 or 83 percent.

I own a 25-by-150-square-foot lot with a 110-year-old commercial building. There is no way that it’s worth nearly $119,000.

Yet, the biggest shocker was the lot valuation – it increased from $4,900 to $27,300. This is a 457 percent increase in land value. The property went from $1.40 per square foot to $7.83 for the same measurement.

I found that the county portion of my property tax increased by 116 percent, school 105 percent and city 72 percent over the past year.

For further research on property valuation, I turned to the Montana Cadastral website, which shows taxable and tax-exempt parcels of land in the state. I’ve looked at multiple commercial and residential properties on the site and come to the conclusion that – for local business owners who own their land – valuations increased this year between 200 and 500 percent.

Residential property owners, by contrast, saw a decrease in their land values almost across the board.

One thing I find troubling is the property north of town owned by Rocky Mountain Power LLC and Delaware LLC. Their land is valued at $33,414 and shows a building value of $0. Something is wrong with these figures: How is it that a company with 83 acres has a land valuation only $6,000 more than my commercial property, which is about 1,500 times smaller? How is it that a building located on the power plant property is valued at $0 and my building has a market value of $91,680?

I would advise everyone to visit www.cadastral.mt.gov. The information available will open your eyes. It did mine, and I’ve contacted the appraisal assessment office and will have my property reassessed.

Another issue that just blew me away was the fact that, as of the end of November, we no longer have an appraisal assessment office in Big Horn County. I was informed I would either have to contact Yellowstone or Treasure County to have the valuation of my property reassessed.

When I asked why the office in Big Horn County was being closed, it was explained to me that part of the reason was recent cuts in the state budget made during the special session of state legislature. I also was told that our own county commissioners played a role in its closure. I’m going to be checking into that.

Something is wrong when Treasure County, with a population of only 697 people, has an appraisal office and Big Horn County – population 13,242 – does not.

All I can say to these entities is good luck on ever getting another bond issue approved. I will never vote for one again and, in fact, I will publically oppose any such levy increase brought before the people.

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