City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam told budget officials that she needed an easier way to explain the city budget than just numbers on a graph, and so officials came up with a series of colorful graphs to clarify the numbers.

“It’s a difficult thing to talk about a $100 million dollar plus budget that funds a very complex organization,” said Merriam. “When the mayor writes the budget we think about what services the people want and how do we pay for them. Last year we had some new city council people that said they needed a way to talk to people about the budget easily and quickly. When the Department of revenue appraisals came out two years ago, people thought it was the city’s fault and we needed a way to explain what part of your taxes goes to the city.”

Merriam said the first graphic displayed the percentages paid in taxes.

“Your city taxes are about 30 percent of your property tax bill,” she said. “Actually, your school taxes for Missoula County Public Schools is 32 percent. That’s more than  the city and the county is 19.7 percent. That graph gives people some perspective.”

Another graph explains why city taxes necessarily go up every year.

“You can look at that one and see that half of your tax dollars go to police and fire because as the city grows, so does the demand for police and fire protection,” she said. “There are also graphs that explain TIF (Tax Increment Financing) and Urban Renewal Districts,” she said. “In addition, fire services are covering fewer house fires thanks to better building codes, but are responding to more calls for service to elderly people, because our population is aging.”

Attached to the story find the graphics and displays provided by the City of Missoula.