New Missoula Mayor Talks Property Taxes and Bipartisanship
The first caller immediately focused the new mayor’s attention on the issue of Missoula’s rapidly rising property tax situation. Hess addressed the issue first on a statewide basis.
“Our property tax system in Montana is fundamentally broken,” began Hess. “Back in the 1980s, we had four mills that were running all day long. We had low property values in our houses, and we barely had any tourists. I believe that we need to look to the legislature to reform our property tax code. Today, we've got a ton of tourists, our home values are high and we don't have the industry that we had back decades ago. So I think we need to come up with a property tax system in the state of Montana that really works for our modern economy.”
Defending the spending in the new fiscal year 2023 budget, Hess said Missoula has expenses and bills that must be paid.
“The flip side of that is that at the city of Missoula, we have to keep the lights on; we have to keep the snowplows running and we have to keep police and fire running,” he said. “We have to keep patching potholes, and so I think we can be as efficient with our resources at the city level as possible, but a big part of the picture is property tax reform.”
Hess told one caller that Missoula does not have the highest taxes in the state.
“Cities and towns across the state are feeling this issue and Missoula is at the midpoint,” he said. “Our property taxes are truly at the midpoint in the state. When you take in all of the special districts and all of the things that comprise the property tax bill, we are lower than Bozeman, we’re lower than Kalispell, I believe and we are higher than Great Falls. So, we're right smack in the middle of the seven largest cities in the state of Montana.”
Following the dramatic way that fellow city councilor and mayoral finalist Mike Nugent stepped aside to allow Hess to receive the seven council votes necessary to win the office, Hess said it is his intention to work across the aisle to bring bipartisan solutions to Missoula’s problems.
“One of the things that I got out of that is that we need to move forward in a unified manner,” he said. “Both of the conservatives on the council voted for me, and one of them nominated me. In her nomination speech, she (Sandra Vasecka) talked about how well we are able to work together, and I think that's something that folks on the council are aware that I am eager to do. I am very eager to work with people that don't agree with me, and I'm very eager to try to find a compromise.”
Nominations are now being accepted to fill Hess’ open seat in Ward Two.