Cascade County budget approved, taxes about the same

If your property value remained about the same, your property taxes will also stay about the same in Cascade County.

Mary Embleton, county budget officer, said tax bills will depend on where a resident lives, as there are different assessments for different areas of the county.

But for someone who lives within the city limits whose market value stayed the same as last year at $185,7000, the county-wide property tax would increase 52 cents. For someone in unincorporated areas of Cascade County with a property value that stayed the same as last year at $161,300, they’d see a property tax decrease of $1.37, according to county budget documents.

The county had a 4.2 increase in taxable value according to data from the Montana Department of Revenue. State law restricts the amount of property taxes local jurisdictions can raise annually to half the average rate of inflation for the prior three years. This year, the inflation factor was 0.59 percent.

Cascade County Budget Document

Since the increase in taxable value was in excess of the inflation factor, that means the maximum of non-permissive mills the county can levy is automatically reduced, according to Embleton’s presentation.

Embleton said capital improvements and replenishing reserves were a focus in this year’s budget.

Zero members of the public attended the meeting, which was held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The total budget for fiscal year 2018, which began July 1, is $70,598,229. That’s down slightly from last year’s total of $72,457,455.

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That’s in part due to major capital improvement projects wrapping up this year, including the courthouse roof replacement and Fox Farm Road improvements.

The county is getting $108,396 fromĀ state and federal Community Transportation Enhancement Program toward capital improvements.

The courthouse roof replacement project began in 2016 and this year’s budget includes $1.575 million.

Fox Farm Road improvements were budgeted over two fiscal years and this year’s portion is being funded with $1.2 million from cash reserves for engineering and construction, according to county budget documents.

The total for capital improvements, including the courthouse roof and Fox Farm Road, in this year’s budget is $5 million. That includes improvements at the Adult Detention Center, phone system replacement for the sheriff’s officer, Expo Park upgrades and more.

There’s about another $1.8 million in other capital needs like heavy equipment and fleet purchases.

The bulk of county revenues come from property taxes and this year the county is expecting about $25.6 million in property tax revenue. The next largest chunk is $17.8 million in “other financing sources” which includes cash reserves. Next is charges for services at $14.96 million.

Embleton said the budget process starts with guidance from commissioners, then department heads and other elected officials meet with commissioners to go over their portion at least once.

All of that information gets put into the system, Embleton said, and by July 1, commissioners do a soft adopt to ensure operations continue while the budget is being finalized.

Cities and counties typically don’t get their certified mill values and tax revenue information until August and they have 30 days from that point to set their mill levies.

The county budget is largely dependent on property taxes, especially as other funding sources shrink, Embleton said.

“The needs are many, the resources are few,” she said.