City of Missoula Considering More Tax Hikes
It is budgeting season for the city of Missoula, and Mayor John Engen is asking for a tax increase of 5.27 percent in a budget that Assistant Finance Director Leigh Griffing describes as the city's "Last Worst Budget."
City Councilman Adam Hertz says that, if approved, this would be one of the largest tax increases of his tenure.
"This is my fourth budget season in the city of Missoula and every year in the past, I have voted against the budget," said Hertz. "It has always come with tax increases that I thought have been unnecessary. I think this is the highest proposed tax increase since I've been in office."
The tax increases could be even higher, up to 8.91 percent if all of the city council members had their requests approved. Some of those requests include a $15 minimum wage for city employees, with a price tag of $70,145 and a jail diversion program with a price tag of $60,000.
"Some of the new requests are things that we just have to do, like hold a municipal election in the fall... we have to pay for that," said Hertz, explaining the Mayor's proposal. "Other new requests are another part time assistant judge. Some various capital improvement programs. Largely though, the increases are driven by Cost of Living increases for city employees."
The city is currently projecting an ending fund balance of about $3,448,416, which is close to the $3.1 million amount in professional fees mayor Engen acknowledges the city will have to pay if it loses its condemnation lawsuit against Mountain Water Company. Hertz says the city will have to pay much more than that, because that figure does not include fees for Mountain Water Company attorneys. Hertz figures the amount will be higher than $8 million.