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City property owners should see slight tax decrease this year

| September 14, 2022 7:00 AM

By CHRIS PETERSON

Hungry Horse News

Columbia Falls property owners should see a small decrease in their property taxes, even though the city’s overall budget is up.

A property owner with a theoretical home value of $200,000 should see a decrease of about $29.

The reason is the city’s 3% resort tax, a portion of which is allocated toward property tax reduction. The city also didn’t levy all the mills it could have under state law, noted city manager Susan Nicosia.

This year, the city reduced the mill levy about 10 mills.

The overall budget is $20.5 million, but it’s because the city is doing several large projects. The sewer budget, for example, is just over $8 million. That’s because the sewer plant is undergoing a $5.5 million upgrade, which is largely paid for through federal funding.

There are also big budget items, like the rebuild of 12th Avenue West, which is $1.2 million.

As far as the general budget is concerned, the main expenditure is the police department, which amounts to about 45% of the $3.66 million gneral fund.

All told, about 64% of the general fund budget goes toward salaries and employee benefits.

The city will likely amend the budget soon. There’s about $192,000 in resort tax funding to hire three more full-time firefighters, but the city is waiting to hear if it will receive a federal grant that could pay most of their salaries for three years.

If the city doesn’t receive the grant, it will use the resort tax funds and hire the firefighters on its own, along with $90,000 contributed by the rural department. If it does get the federal grant, it will use the resort tax funds toward equipment and other expenses.

Either way, the plan is to hire the firefighters soon, bringing to total paid force up to four firefighters, including c hief Karl Weeks.

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