Taxes And Crowns And Zoom Towns, Oh My!

by Travis Mateer

Children believe the most incredulous fables, like how back in the day some guys who didn’t like taxes and fealty to a remote crown engaged in an uprising that freed the new world for a journey toward a democratic utopia.

Sorry to burst your bubble, kids, but the price-makers and interest-takers are masters at morphing their disguises, so here we are again, wondering how the esoteric tax bill is going to bend us over and fuck us after the last round of reappraisals hit two years ago.

Before getting to the local taxing situation, which is guaranteed to make your blood boil, I suggest listening to a FASCINATING episode of Deep Dives with Monica Perez. This conversation about the coronation of King Charles with “Parallel Mike” is incredibly interesting, and helps to validate my own interest in the Monarchy we Americans like to think we broke away from those many years ago.

The most galling aspect of that conversation, at least for me, is how the vast land holdings of the crown have been maintained in perpetuity over the centuries. It’s not even possible to put a value on all this land because, until somewhat recently, aristocratic land ownership wasn’t even registered, and even now that register is voluntary.

To get an idea of what I’m talking about, this Guardian article is a good place to start. From the link:

Half of England is owned by less than 1% of its population, according to new data shared with the Guardian that seeks to penetrate the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded land ownership.

The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country.

The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across England’s population, each person would have just over half an acre – an area roughly half the size of Parliament Square in central London.

Ok, now that you’ve been properly primed by our royal forbearers, let’s take a look at the gentle way Missoula’s Clerk and Recorder, Tyler Gernant, is preparing homeowners for the shock of what’s coming later this month. From the link:

“This year you’ll be getting a reappraisal notice that we’ll go out at the end of this month,” began Gernant. “On that reappraisal notice, you’ll see two very important numbers. One of those numbers is probably pretty exciting and the other one may not be as exciting. The first number is your market value that’s going to be listed. The other number is your estimated taxes and your estimated taxes are based off of last year’s mills levied by all local government taxing jurisdictions, and that number will probably be pretty scary this year. There’s a very specific reason for that because residential market values in Missoula County have gone up by an average of 37 percent over the last two years.”

For new readers, or anyone outside Montana who stumbles across my humble blog, the ZOOM part of Zoom Chron is a reference to Missoula’s status as a Zoom Town. And what is a Zoom Town? I’ll let a mortgage website define it for me:

Before getting to another quote from the Don’t Panic! article on tax-ageddon, I’d like to share WHY property values are reappraised every TWO years now, instead of every six years, and that’s because of the housing crash of 2008 and the timing of HIGH values that stayed on the books for YEARS, despite the crash in value that reckless fiscal policy produced. So now, every two years, you get the reappraisal letter in the mail, and this year it’s going to be PAINFUL.

But DON’T PANIC, they say, as one of our most fiscally UNsound County Commissioners tries to lighten the burden with his fun little caveat (emphasis mine):

WTF is this bullshit? An elected cry-baby who nearly ALWAYS deflects criticism by scapegoating the State is now using the State cap-requirement as some sort of positive caveat to the pain coming for local property owners and the renters they will be passing the pain along to?

If I had any extra money to play around with, I’d be looking for companies selling pitchforks and kerosene to invest in.

One suggestion for our Clerk and Recorder as he prepares for a HOT summer at the County Courthouse, I’m not sure the proverb told to the KGVO audience (and Pachyderms) is going to be well-received by many people, so perhaps find something other than saying this (emphasis mine):

Gernant related a story about how to take the property tax increases in stride, in which a man and his son were looking at the father’s property tax bill.

“As he sat at his kitchen table with his dad who was looking at the property tax bill, and writing out the check for the payment and he looked at the bill and being a kid, said ‘Holy cow, that’s a lot of money! Why do we have to pay that much?’ And his dad responded with something that clearly stuck with him his whole life and has stuck with me as well, which is, ‘Son, we live in the greatest country club in the world, and I’m proud to pay my dues’.”

On that note, if there’s anything left after the tax man cometh, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) will happily receive your support, or you can make a donation at my about page. Unlike your tax bill, money directed my direction is VOLUNTARY and based solely on the relationship between the value you find in my coverage, and what you can afford.

Thank you for the support!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to Taxes And Crowns And Zoom Towns, Oh My!

  1. But, but, but…

    Travis, won’t any increase, even drastic ones, in property taxes enable The City to facilitate and encourage the construction of even more affordable housing? Combine this with the graft and incompetence in permitting and overseeing the building of low cost residential units is sure to drive the price of homeownership crashing through the floor, enabling even the lowliest citizen to enjoy the benefits of possessing the greatest asset (liability) one could ever have.

    Right. And the natural Laws of Economics will be officially repealed at the next session of The Committee.

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