County requests tax recertification for GFPS budget, Calumet tax reduction
County Commissioners voted unanimously during their Oct. 21 meeting to have the Montana Department of Revenue recertify the county’s taxable values after the DoR lowered Calumet’s value by $2.14 million.
That change means a drop in the tax revenue for the Great Falls Public Schools of $518,000, after their budget was already approved by the school board in August.
“That’s a big budget hit for anybody to deal with,” said County Commissioner Don Ryan.
County Commissioner Joe Briggs said that the change happened after the county, city and school district had all set their budgets and the mill levies were approved.
“We didn’t even know it was occuring,” Briggs said of the DoR reevaluating Calumet’s taxable value this fall.
The change also delays the preparation and distribution of the fall tax bill to property owners that now likely won’t get to taxpayers until mid-November, Briggs said.
Since the GFPS request to recertify was approved, the commission will schedule a public hearing for the first week of November on the recertified values and mill levies.
Mary Embleton, county budget officer, said the Calumet adjustment will have minimal impact on the county’s budget.
City Manager Greg Doyon said that, “finance advises that the delay also gives the city an opportunity to reconsider recertification, but staff’s recommendation is to stay the course and absorb the increase. Otherwise, a city recertification will have additional financial impact on property owners.”
By recertifying the taxable value, the county will essentially collect the same amount of tax revenue as before Calumet’s value was dropped, but the difference will be spread among the remaining taxpayers.
Superintendent Tom Moore said that without the recertification, the cut could reduce programs and staffing.
“The impact is significant to the school district,” he said.
Brian Patrick, GFPS’ business operations manager, said that the cut would include $93,000 from the debt service fund, which is required to make payments on the $96 million facility bond approved by voters several years ago; and $296,000 from the general fund.
“After going through 10 years of cut after cut after cut…it’s real hard to imagine a half-million dollar impact on our operations,” Patrick said.
Briggs said that the logical thing to do would prohibit these kinds of changes once the DoR has released certified taxable values in the same year, but that would require a legislative change.