Hamilton could see 40% property tax increase over last year


Hamilton could see 40% property tax increase over last year

HAMILTON, Mont. - Property owners in the city of Hamilton could see their taxes rise by 40 percent over last year.

The increase would come after two years of tax cuts, that totaled $930,000.

City officials said the hike would pay for a number of ongoing and planned infrastructure projects.

We found out the city would like to assess $560,000 more than it charged last year.

We checked with the Montana Department of Revenue and found taxpayers whose property is worth $100,000 would pay about $86 a year more. If you own property that's worth $200,000 you would pay about $172 more a year.

NBC Montana met with Hamilton City Finance Administrator Craig Shepherd.

Shepherd said the city reduced taxes the past two years because it didn't need the money. But what a difference a year makes.

Shepherd told us the city wants to recoup some of the mills it didn't assess to fund a number of new infrastructure projects.

"They do need to be done at some point in time," said Shepherd, "and we can't just keep putting them off."

We're talking about a street repair project on the heavily-used Fairgrounds Road that leads to Hamilton High School. There are street improvements on a water main replacement project underway on South 3rd Street. There are plans for a new justice center and a proposal for major upgrades on Ravalli, a feeder street on the south end.

Shepherd said the city is asking for less than what the state will allow. But City Council Member Joe Petrusaitis said it's too much. He said there are projects that we may not need, or those that could at least be reduced.

Petrusaitis showed us Ravalli Street, which he said doesn't need to be upgraded right away.

"The Ravalli Street project is going to cost over a million dollars," said the councilman. "And I think it's a little bit too much for the city of Hamilton."

Petrusaitis said he will vote no on the increase.

Terry Stevens is a Hamilton resident and longtime barber dowtown.

"They come up with these ideas to spend money," said Stevens, "and they don't ask me if it's OK. They just stick it to you and you've got to pay."

Stevens said an increase will be hard on a lot of people.

Some residents said Hamilton's infrastructure needs updating badly.

"We have to do it," said Hamilton resident Helen Bibler. "If we don't, somebody's going to come back and bite us in the thigh."

The city council will take up the tax question when it approves its budget in August.

Hamilton taxpayers are facing other rate increases besides property taxes, including water rates, which are going up 13 percent, and sewer rates which are increasing by 8 percent.

City residents also pay county taxes, various state and local school taxes, park district, library district and open lands taxes.

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