by Travis Mateer
I have to say the former spokesperson of the Montana Democratic Party, Gomer Kidston, is ON POINT with his eager framing of the looming tax increases property owners are being told to expect next year. In fact, I’ll dare to say this is his BEST propaganda piece ever!
What makes a Gomer prop-piece so effective for this cabal of New Party culture warriors is the immediate framing one can expect, often in the very title itself, like this: Tax increases likely: City of Missoula fighting inflation, state’s ‘broken’ tax system.
The gist is already there–and for those who don’t click on the link, this might be helpful–but the fun for a propaganda enthusiast like myself comes from the actual content. Here’s how this stellar example of Gomer’s work begins:
Under the weight of inflation and Montana’s antiquated tax system, the City of Missoula on Wednesday made clear the financial difficulties ahead as it embarks on crafting this year’s budget.
In this opening paragraph the new phenomenon of inflation preempts the old standard of scapegoating the state of Montana’s tax system before Gomer generously depicts our local cabal as acting decisively, and with clarity, while doing something skilled that can be described as “crafting”. What a lovely way to begin. Let’s continue.
A tax increase on property owners is certain, and the city has no plans to hire new staff, buy new equipment or expand any programs. It will use a portion of its remaining ARPA funds to cover basic expenses, and it could be forced to make program cuts down the road.
Yes, these clear and decisive stewards of your tax dollars need you to know they have NO PLANS to hire pals and buy toys and expand whatever new Parks and Rec shit Donna Gaukler is dreaming up. And this paragraph concludes with a nice threat of CUTS DOWN THE ROAD. Nice.
Let’s continue with our Mayor, and remember, it would be pretty darn awful to direct ANY criticism toward a man going through treatment for pancreatic cancer.
“This year hasn’t been an easy budgeting year,” said Mayor John Engen. “Inflation is a continuing challenge for the city of Missoula, as it is for our private and public sector partners. Labor and the things we purchase to provide services to our residents cost more than they did last year. It’s as simple as that.”
Yes, our dying Mayor would like you to THINK it’s very simple. He would ALSO probably like you to NOT think about the shadow government called the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and its $35 million dollar budget. That loot is for special things, and you have to be a special person (or business) to get it.
After hitting the combination of inflation, and the old fallback of blaming the state legislature, Gomer quotes our Mayor about the coming tax increases (emphasis mine):
“Because we have a state that has rejected the idea of a tourist tax, I have to rely on property taxes and fees to cover costs,” he said. “A tax increase is likely to be more than we’ve seen in my tenure as mayor. I know the increase is unwelcome news, but it will make us comparable to what other cities around the state are doing, particularly because they’re rowing in the same type of boat.”
The utter bullshit in this quote is the implication that a tourist tax would solve our budgetary woes. Nope, it would not, but that won’t stop our manipulative Mayor claiming the meanies at the state legislature are tying his hands, forcing him to raise property taxes.
This budget scapegoating process has been a consistent refrain for years now. If you don’t believe me, check out this piece I wrote in August of 2019 where our County Commissioner, Farmer Josh, had this to say:
“The cost of providing services through local government increases faster than our ability to pay for those costs,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “It behooves us to come up with new ways to generate revenue beyond property taxes. Property tax as a tool is basically maxed out.”
So, what have our illuminated braintrust done in the subsequent years to address these problems? If they HAD actually done something to address this budgetary dumpster fire, we wouldn’t be facing a “structural imbalance” that will allegedly take YEARS to address.
Members of the City Council earlier this month were notified that the city’s budget was facing a structural imbalance. It could take several years to bring it back in line given the force of outside factors, city CAO Dale Bickell said.
“During the pandemic, our budgets held the line or even reduced mill levies slightly at a time when we had a lot of operational needs. What we created was a situation where our ongoing expenses exceeded our ongoing revenues,” said Bickell. “We’ll have to make some difficult choices in the coming years in the budget as we come up against our mill levy caps.”
I don’t know about you, but reading the empty words from these gutless punks–who never take any accountability themselves for our budget problems–takes me to a place beyond anger, especially when one considers how easy this was to predict. Despite people like me warning about this direction we’ve been on for years, here we are looking to our “elected” leaders for solutions.
Do you REALLY want THEIR reset, Missoula? (emphasis mine)
“I’m not asking for new staff, new programs, or new equipment unless it’s unsafe or more expensive to keep in service. We will continue to fund existing programs and invest in people. But this year, we’re resetting and holding the line,” he said
Engen added that that “reset” may have to play out over two budget cycles, and until the Montana Department of Revenue releases this year’s taxable values, the exact numbers won’t be known until August.
Mayor Engen, Dale Bickell, and ALL the little enablers in our mountain fiefdom better understand that these pathetic deflections and rationalizations won’t keep the public passively compliant forever. At some point, somethings got to give. What will it be? And when?
If there are answers to those questions, I’ll do my best to find them. Thanks for reading!
This all so much framing and gaming! Multiple new projects, programs and positions were created at both the City and County over past three years. It was stated that all of these were financially able due to AARPA funds (and various other slushes – even from the meanie State). Its almost as if these “free” funds would continue forever – but even if not these funds HAD to be used!
Now, lo and behold, these funds are drying up. Now, local funds solely will have to be used to sustain projects, programs and positions. The only way forward is thru increased property taxes – who could have seen that coming?
Also – despite seeing shortfall coming – the City has just recently added positions (when Engen says no more he really means “starting now! No, starting now! Etc,etc). Bond issues are being trial ballooned for the Fairgrounds/City Parks/ Housing/etc – expect to see those continue. And of course, hundreds of thousands continue to be pissed away on out of state redundant and needless “studies”.
Yep – Ol’ Mayor John and cronies are really holding the line and only raising taxes to keep the lights on. Only because tourist tax money is unavailable and only because we didnt get $400 K in gas tax money. Its too bad there wasnt $ 40 million dollars (City tax dollars) sitting around that could lessen the burden on home/rental owners.
Damn inflation – its all Russia’s fault!
I have some questsions about the budget:
Why do we need to raise taxes if we currently have $30 million in the bank ($10 million in the general fund and $20 million in the special revenue funds)?
Also, why aren’t we paying off our debt? We start the year with $1.4 million across the 38 debt service funds, but the ending balance is just $1.3 million. But the catch is, we’re paying $700,000 in interest to pay off just $100,000 in principle. Does this make sense to anyone, doing it like this year after year?
Why is the Housing budget going down by $1.2 million? Why did Housing not list a single personnel charge in their budget request, like in years past?
Finally…Why did none of the three news agencies that covered the budget news choose not to go into the actual numbers?