Missoula mayoral candidates address questions about rising taxes

Missoula mayoral candidates answer...

MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula citizens will cast their votes for mayor next month.

Missoula Mayor John Engen is running for a fourth term.   Lisa Triepke is a community outreach coordinator for a local medical clinic and is challenging the mayor. She is upset over rising taxes. 

NBC Montana collected questions for the candidates from viewers, and recent candidate forums and news headlines.

One continuing concern is recent tax increases.

Engen told us he only calls for raising them when the city isn't making enough money to cover what he calls critical services, as was the case through the recent recession.

"If I have a choice between eliminating services and cutting cops and firefighters, not filling potholes, and I can reasonably raise taxes to make sure we are doing the work the citizens expect, that is what I will do.  That is the responsible thing to do.  When revenues increase, we share in that," said Engen.

When we asked Triepke about taxes she told NBC Montana she would try to keep them down by cutting what she calls wasteful spending, after her tax bills have gone up in recent years.   

"More specifically, (my taxes) have gone up 27 percent in the last four years.  I think there is a way to approach the budget without them having to go up every year, and we can eliminate waste and cut out the unnecessary spending," said Triepke.

A viewer sent us a question asking about frivolous credit card spending and expenditures.  

"How do you plan on curbing these expenditures while balancing the budget and providing crucial services?"

"I would be very interested in knowing what those frivolous expenditures were," said Engen.

"The City of Missoula uses credit cards as many municipalities do.  We document every purchase.  Department heads review those purchases and they end up on our claims list so folks in the public can see what we are spending money on.  We have folks from stem to stern in the organization who are incredibly good stewards of the public investment.  They are in the business of making sure we provide services our citizens expect," Engen added.

Here is how Triepke responded to recent tax increases.

"When we go to the budgeting process, we need to go at it with a different angle and possibly look at three different scenarios.  If we are going to ask for an increase, then we need to justify that.  We could also look at it staying where it's at right now, and then possibly coming in with a 5 percent to 7 percent decrease by trying to cut the waste without cutting services or personnel," said Triepke.

Engen went on to say he does not foresee taxes going up for a number of years in Missoula.

We are publishing the candidates' answers to different topics each day this week.

On Tuesday see their views on whether the public has enough say in multi-million dollar expenditures, like the takeover of Mountain Water.  

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