Missoula leaders hope to fill in survey “gaps” with open house

Posted at 4:31 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:54:28-04

MISSOULA – Missoula leaders are hoping an open house this week will help them fill in the “gaps” in a recent survey which said residents are willing to pay higher taxes if the money is spent on streets and roads.

The survey, released earlier this spring, is the first the city has done in seven years. It found that while people are content, especially with police and fire services, most believe Missoula could do more to fix streets.

Some 11% of those surveyed said Missoula taxes are “too high”, even as most “strongly support” spending more on streets and roads. And that’s created a few questions for Missoula leaders to wrestle with. Are people willing to pay more taxes and for what exactly?

During an open house Tuesday evening, the city hopes to hear more specific input, and maybe answering some misconceptions about property taxes…

“Some part, being about to provide some education about property taxes. Helping folks understand where they come from and where they go,” Missoula Mayor John Engen said.

Beyond the issue of traffic improvements, the survey also found 23% of those surveyed are worried about housing issues as Missoula prices continue to climb for both purchased homes and rentals. Mayor Engen would like to know exactly how Missoula residents would prefer to tackle the issue…

“Housing is at the whim of the market to a certain degree and we don’t have the same degree of control over how much or what kind of housing gets built as we do about what kind of streets get built and where,” Mayor Engen said. “So, helping us understand our role in that picture I think is important.”

Mayor Engen says at a time when Missoula’s growth is probably the most robust in more than a decade, it’s going to be important for the city to make the most strategic use of its tax dollars to keep the momentum going, and affordable…

“Municipal budgeting is a balancing act. It always is, always will be. And frankly the more information we have the better off we are in terms of trying to strike that balance,” Mayor Engen said.

The open house will give people a chance to focus on specific stations such as streets and housing that will be set up in the Missoula City Council chambers from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News