Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Montanans who pay property taxes should be aware that the second half of their property tax payment is due at the end of May.

KGVO News spoke to Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant on Monday for a refresher on property taxes; what they are, what they pay for, and what happens if we don’t pay them on time.

The Second Half of Your Property Tax is Due by May 31

First, Gernant provided a primer on why we pay property taxes in Montana.

“Property taxes are essentially taxes on any real property, and then mobile homes have a tax on them as well,” began Gernant. “They are assessed by the (Montana) Department of Revenue which assesses a market value for your property. They decide, based off of market data, what you could sell that property for on the open market. There's a tax rate that the legislature sets that's applied to that specific type of property, so there are different tax rates depending on whether it's commercial, industrial, or residential property.”

Gernant then explained how the tax monies are spent.

Property Taxes pay for the Lion's Share of County and City Services

“Local governments do a budgeting process whereby they ‘back end into that’ through a process called mill levies,” he said. “Essentially, for every $1,000 in taxable value, which is the market value times the tax rate that would raise them one mill would raise $1 for that local government, and so you add all those mills up for all of the local taxing jurisdictions, then multiply it by the taxable value of your property and that gives you your general taxes.”

Those with mortgages already have their property taxes taken out as part of their monthly payment, however, those property owners who have paid off their mortgages are responsible for paying their property taxes directly to the county twice a year, and the second half payment is due no later than May 31, with an attention-getting penalty for those who fail to make their payment on time.

Don't Forget to Pay on Time! There's a 2 Percent Penalty if you Miss the Deadline

“There's a stiff penalty if you don't pay on time,” he said. “There’s a state law that requires us to assess a 2 percent penalty, the moment your payment is late, so two percent of whatever your payment would be gets assessed as a penalty for being late. In addition to that, you then get charged 10 percent per year interest on any late payment. So there's a pretty stiff penalty if you don't pay your taxes on time, which is why we strongly encourage you to do that.”

Gernant says 'Prepare for Sticker Shock' when the New Appraisals are Sent Out

In June, the State of Montana will send out notices on the new assessed value of your home, along with the higher amounts you’ll have to pay for the next year.

“The Department of Revenue does those assessments and they'll send out a notice saying what your new assessed market value is, along with your assessed taxable value, then they're going to have an estimated tax based on the new value,” he said. “That estimated tax is almost always wrong in some way or another, and this year, it will probably be wrong in terms that it will estimate that your general taxes are much higher than they would likely be in reality, because we have seen property values go up in Missoula County by about 37 percent over the two-year reappraisal cycle, so there's going to be some sticker shock for sure when people get those notices at the end of June.”

For those who wish to challenge their reappraisal, there will be information on the notice on how and where to appeal.

The Missoula County Treasurer’s office is located at 200 West Broadway, Missoula, MT. 59802, or call Gernant’s office at 406-258-4847.

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