Serving as Missoula’s mayor is a balancing act.

On the one hand, citizens appropriately demand that the city delivers service, whether it’s pothole repairs or new parks and trails or effective policing or a safe, reliable water supply or synchronized traffic signals.

On the other hand, the folks I serve want those services at a price that’s affordable.

During campaign season, there’s always lots of noise around this balancing act. Sometimes, by virtue of social media, hearsay, letters to the editor and other sources of opinion, facts get lost in the din.

Here are some facts to consider:

• This year, for the first time in 17 years, we’ve lowered the city property tax assessment on Missoulians. We were able to do that because the value of property in our community has increased, and our tax base has expanded. Some people will still pay more than they did last year because their property is worth more, and some will pay less. But the fact is that because Missoula is doing well, we’re able to pay for the services citizens demand without a tax increase.

• The purchase of our water system, which was the only privately owned system in the state, will not increase taxes. In fact, the system stands alone, and its revenues pay for the loan required for its purchase, all of the operating costs and the cost of repairing a system that was badly broken, all without raising water rates. The system is also paying for the legal costs that came with its acquisition. Taxpayers aren’t footing the bill; the system pays for itself.

• Our urban-renewal districts work with private businesses and organizations to improve projects and provide incentives for new development, which pays dividends long into the future. Whether we’re helping build roads to renovate Southgate Mall, helping Consumer Direct build its new national headquarters, creating new student housing, building a conference center, or building trail connections that will serve the community for decades to come, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency responsibly invests in growing our tax base and does so without raising taxes. 

• Missoula is not the most expensive place in Montana to live. In fact, Bozeman and Billings residents pay more per person in property taxes. And while I recognize that some citizens are struggling, the idea that we’re somehow taxing folks out of their homes while other communities are cheap places to live is a myth. Missoula is a great place to live with amenities that are the envy of other communities in the state because we responsibly invest our resources.

• Missoula is friendly to business. We reorganized our development office and rewrote an old zoning code to make it easier to build quality projects in a growing community. We’ve acquired two businesses in my dozen years serving as mayor. One is the water system, which I believe was a necessity to secure the future of Missoula. The second is the composting facility, which was purchased from a willing seller and met the long-term needs of the city for a reliable facility to process solid waste and organic material at reasonable costs.

We’ve accomplished much by working together. Today, more people are working in Missoula than ever before. Today, more quality development is happening in Missoula than ever before. The air is cleaner. The water is cleaner.

I love this balancing act, and I have the experience and record to demonstrate that I work well with the community to strike the appropriate balance. I want to continue my service to this community we love, and I believe the facts are on the side of that continued service.

John Engen, mayor of Missoula, is running for re-election. 

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