The Montana Department of Revenue is in the process of closing half of the agency’s offices across the state that evaluate property taxes and, on occasion, informally help people with their income tax questions.
Revenue Director Mike Kadas updated lawmakers in the Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee Wednesday on how his department is handling budget cuts passed in the 2017 legislative session.
Hardest hit is the Department’s Property Assessment Division, where staff calculate new property tax values and reassess old ones. Until last year there were offices in all 56 counties. By this time next year that number will drop to 28.
"We put this proposal together to deal with the cuts that we’ve got. Now, it is a big change," says Kadas.
Kadas also says the Department’s goal is to reassess property values in the state on a 6 year cycle, and that goal could be compromised by these budget cuts.
About 20 people will lose their jobs by the time the closures are done next February.
The latest round of 14 office closures were completed last week. Those offices were in Granite, Powell, Liberty, Judith Basin, Pondera, Big Horn, Blaine, Wheatland, Carter, Wibaux, Jefferson, Beaverhead, Glacier, and Broadwater.
Despite the reduction in Revenue Department services, Kadas says when looking at this year’s tax season the agency is processing income tax return refunds faster than it did in 2017.
Great Falls Republican Senator Brian Hoven saw that as a positive.
"So, I want to applaud you and your organization for taking a pretty positive approach to these budget cuts and making things work. You’ve accomplished more with less," said Hoven.
"I appreciate that Senator Hoven, we have tried," said Kadas in response. "I disagree with your characterization that we have done more with less. We are doing less with less."
For example, Kadas says there are fewer auditors within the Department than in past years.
Kadas says the past year has been hard on employee morale. He says some are worried they’ll lose their jobs, and others that they’ve not providing the level of service people have come to expect.