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Billings man gets clarification, new program helps state appraisers

Revenue appraisers.jpg
Posted at 11:25 PM, Apr 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 12:31:47-04

BILLINGS - A Billings man's battle with the Montana Department Of Revenue's property division has a resolution.

It all stems from a letter Lary Garrison and his wife received last week indicating he may owe more property taxes after an audit showed an addition on his home.

There never was any addition and it was all a misunderstanding.

The letter stated that his home may be a little bit bigger than what's on the record. He was afraid that might mean paying more taxes.

The appraiser determined everything was the same size and that’s on the record, and so the Garrisons are not going to have to pay any extra taxes.

Garrison talked with appraisers after the Department of Revenue sent him and his wife a letter.

The letter stated: “An aerial audit shows a new or missed structure addition that is not on your property record.”

“I'm 77, almost 78,” Garrison said. “But I know people that are older than I am, that do not have the cognitive ability that I have that would get a letter like this that would be absolutely petrified."

Department Of Revenue appraisal manager Paula Gilbert says an aerial view of the Garrisons home shows the whole roof area.

However, under part of the roof, there is a porch which Garrison says should not be included in the square footage of the home.

“What it appears in that in the image is that that is all probably living area, when in fact it's not,” Gilbert said. “And we actually do have that porch on the record, it's just the way that the aerial imagery is showing it."

The aerial pictures and audits are part of a Department Of Revenue pilot project in Yellowstone and Lewis & Clark counties.

The flyover helps appraisers make sure records are correct. And that is what was used with the Garrisons’ property.

"So as with Mr. Garrison, we came out and that's exactly what it was, his information actually is correct," Gilbert said about the property tax appraisal records.

Gilbert says she hasn't received many complaints. And the department has sent out about 2,500 letters similar to what was sent to the Garrisons.

"I'm at a total loss,” Garrison said. “What is it that that they did? What were they thinking? Why did they do what they did? How did they come to their conclusions?"

"We like to keep our records up to date,” Gilbert said. “So we like to keep new photos. We like to make sure that people's records are correct. It's what we were doing."