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Butte chief executive blames state for rising property taxes

Posted at 9:12 PM, Oct 31, 2023

BUTTE — It’s Halloween and Butte-Silver Bow set up a spook house for the kids at the County Courthouse. It’s also the day Butte’s chief executive sent out a letter on another scary issue: increased property taxes. Something he says falls on the shoulders of the governor’s office and the state legislature, but he’s trying to handle this scary issue locally.

“I’m not trying to pick a fight with the governor, but the governor has said that local governments are the cause of the property taxes going up and that’s simply not true,” said Butte Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher.

With home appraisals seeing an average increase of 35 percent, Gallagher said local governments can’t raise property taxes that high. He claims the state could have taken action to lower the tax rate and offset the property tax increase.

“The state could have taken that upon themselves to help property owners and they chose not to make that decrease,” said Gallagher.

A state legislator said lower tax rates would have shifted the tax burden to small businesses.

“The impact to small businesses would have been enormous. The next biggest impact would have been the ag producers. If we’re talking statewide averages, it would have wiped out commercial small businesses,” said Rep. Llew Jones (R-Conrad.)

Gallagher is cutting property tax revenue by cutting $3.5 million from Butte’s 2024 budget. Governor Greg Gianforte said he’s addressing rising property taxes by proposing up to $2,000 in property tax rebates for Montana homeowners, and delivered $120 million in permanent, long-term property tax relief over the next two years.

“There are solutions, but they are not simplistic solutions and you aren’t going to calculate them in a day,” said Jones.

Still, Gallagher puts the problem on the shoulders of the Legislature.

“Hopefully the Legislative Session will go back in a year and a half and correct the tax burden that they kept on the taxpayers,” Gallagher said.