Local officials waiting for details of potential tax appeal
County and city officials are preparing to set their mill levies, but are awaiting details of an informal review of a major taxpayer.
Calumet Montana Refining requested an informal review of their new appraisals, an option available to all taxpayers.
The Montana Department of Review is currently conducing that review and are hoping to wrap that up by early next week, according to the department.
“Once we have completed that, we will review the results and if there are changes, we would then review Cascade County’s certified values to see if the change was enough to meet the internal threshold for us to offer a recertification to Cascade County,” according to a department email to The Electric.
Once the informal review is complete, the taxpayer has another 30 days to file a formal appeal with the county or state tax appeal boards, according to DoR.
According to DoR, the 2023 market value for Calumet Montana Refining is $292,635,697 and their taxable value is $7,538,706.
The 2023 market value for Montana Renewables, the new biodiesel company at the Calumet complex, is $575,314,603 and their taxable value is $9,865,730, according to DoR.
Cascade County is developing their budget currently.
County Commissioners will open the budget public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 30.
Commissioner Joe Briggs said during an Aug. 22 budget discussion that the county’s newly taxable property is “an order of magnitude higher” this year.
The City of Great Falls and Great Falls Public Schools both said their newly taxable property revenue is also significantly higher this year. Some of that is new economic development in the community and some can likely be attributed to the Calumet/Montana Renewables project over the last few years.
Briggs told The Electric that the county has not stopped hiring for existing positions while awaiting details on the potential tax appeal, but it is their practice not to approve any new positions until the budget is adopted.
He said the county made one exception to that this year by authorizing the hiring of a new community service deputy on Jan. 1, 2024 when the new public safety levy funds will be available.
Briggs said the county hasn’t received any clear information on the potential Calumet appeal and he’s preparing the budget as the if the taxable values from the state are correct, but “I am also identifying contingencies that may be needed in the case of a substantial dropping of taxable values.”
City Manager Greg Doyon said he authorized Susie McIntyre, Great Falls Public Library director, to hire three of the most critical positions she needed for operations and asked her to wait until the city had a clearer picture on its taxable valuation before making further hires.
The City Commission is set to certify its taxable valuation from DoR during their Sept. 5 meeting, despite the potential appeal from Calumet, which may or may not be resolved by then, Doyon said.
“If it is unresolved, we’ll have to deal with the consequences later. In years past, Calumet appeal settlement time frame ranged from two weeks to two years. Sometimes, the city recertified, and sometimes the city “ate” the tax loss with undesignated fund balance. This is why the team makes such a big deal during budget about undesignated fund balance,” Doyon told The Electric.