Monday, September 20, 2021

County reduces mill levy in 2022 budget

Staff Report | September 1, 2021 7:35 AM

Hungry Horse News

Flathead County’s budget has been completed, according to county administrator Pete Melnick. The $117.6 million spending plan looks to hold the line on taxes, largely through growth in the housing market, Melnick noted in a budget message to county commissioners Monday.

This budget calls for a proposed reduction in the mill levy of 11.41% or 143.67 mills compared to 162.18 mills last year.

If a home in the county did not see an increase in its taxable value, the tax bill would go down. For example, a home with a $200,000 market value property would be approximately a $49.98 decrease in county taxes and for a $100,000 market value it would be approximately a $24.99 decrease.

However, most homes did not see a decrease in value. The message does not indicate the impact on tax bills due to a valuation increase, even if the actual mill levy dropped.

The county is on good financial footing, Melnick notes.

The county continues to maintain adequate cash balances. Its cash reserve funds supported by property tax dollars are projected to be $18.7 million at the end of fiscal year 2022 or at about a 27.9% level (33% cash reserves are allowed by law). The beginning balance for fiscal 2022 was $22.4 million.

The total taxable value for the county increased from $285.94 million to $325.9 million with the certification of the new valuation numbers by the Department of Revenue. This represents a 13.9% increase over the fiscal 2021 valuation total. State law also limits tax levy increases to half of the average cost-of-living numbers for the previous three years based on a formula created by the State of Montana as authorized by the legislature.

Each department and office has presented its line item budget to the commissioners at prior budget presentation sessions, Melnick noted. The estimated expenditure appropriation amount in the tax levy funds for fiscal year 2022 totals $67 million compared to $64.5 million in fiscal year 2021 for a 3.9% increase.

The expenditure budget includes a capital improvement program totaling $16 million compared to $14 million last year.

One capital improvement project of note is the renovation of the former Century Link building on Highway 93.

It will house a backup 911 center.

The budget does not include $20 million the county opted to take from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“This funding is not in our proposed budget as the decision on how best to put this capital to work is still under discussion. Regardless of how that sizable capital is utilized, this funding does give the county flexibility to make many small investments or a large investment in our public infrastructure (if appropriate and if needed) in the years to come,” Melnick noted.