Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.
BILLINGS — The total taxable value of property in Yellowstone County increased 4.6 percent in FY 2016-17.
About half that increase is due to the construction of new property or what might be called the addition of new value to the total of assets in the county.
The balance of the increase in taxable value is the result of revised estimate of the value of existing property.
Only new construction results in increased revenue to county government and other taxing jurisdictions. The taxable value of Newly Taxable Property in FY2017-18 is $8,064,294, compared to $13,971,270 in FY 2016-17.
Yellowstone County’s base levy will generate $785,000 in new tax revenues because of new construction, and about $201,000 in additional revenue because of the rate-of -inflation increase, according to County Finance Director Kevan Bryan – for a total of $986,000.
The total of property values increasing because of inflation or re-evaluation do not generate new tax revenues for the county – in fact when that value increases, the county must lower the mill levy so that the revenue they receive from it is the same as previously.
Counties cannot raise tax amounts without a vote of the people, aside from new construction or increases which cover half the rate of inflation. In the 1980s, the state Legislature imposed a freeze on property taxes with the passage of Initiative 105 – a cap that is to remain in place until the state has a statewide sales tax. Any time a county wants to increase taxes for any reason, county officials must take their case to the taxpayers and get approval at the ballot box.
Because of that freeze, the base mill levy that the county commissioners are expected to approve for the coming fiscal year will be lower than last year’s levy in order to generate the same amount of taxes as last year (except for revenue from new construction and inflation). The new levy will be 97.39 mills, as compared to 98.98 mills last year.
Total Market Value of taxable property in Yellowstone County for FY 2017-18 is $20,021,958,036. Last year it was $18,898,931,185.
Excluding special levies such as those for senior citizens or the veterans’ cemetery, the county will collect $35.05 million in property tax revenues this coming fiscal year, compared to $34.06 million last year.
Individual property owners may see differences in the amount of taxes they pay because changes in valuation are not the same for each property. Some properties may increase … Read full story in print edition or by subscribing here.