Oh, to be an elderly book-lover lost in a winter snowstorm. That’s right, Missoula voters, those among us best positioned to benefit from Missoula County’s three proposed mill levies utilize the Missoula County Public Library, Aging Services or Search and Rescue. To those whose lives are impacted by all three, more power to you. But even for the rest of us, all three causes seem well worth folding into our property tax bills.
Here’s some data to keep in mind when you cast your vote yea or nay on Tuesday, June 6.
The Missoula County Library is requesting up to 5.7 mills, which totals $995,000 and would cost $24.28 for homeowners with property assessed at $200,000. This tax would replace an expiring 3.5 mill levy voters roundly approved in 2000. When that levy passed, Director Honore Bray says, the library extended its hours to stay open nights and Sundays as well as increased its book collection, research resources and staff. These days, more than 200 volumes are checked out per hour, demonstrating high local demand. Should the levy fail, Bray says, hours, staff and materials will all have to be reduced.
Missoula Aging Services has asked voters for up to two mills, which would raise $350,000 at a cost of $8.54 on a $200,000 home. This tax would add on to the one mill levy voters approved in 1998. The nonprofit group, whose governing board is appointed by the county commissioners, has been around since 1979 and serves as an umbrella for a host of programs that help seniors get around town, eat on tight budgets and figure out medical questions, among other things. Its Meals on Wheels program served 73,000 meals to area homebound seniors, and its bus program provided more than 22,000 rides for seniors. Aging Services’ programs have seen increasing demand and are now facing deficits and long waiting lists, Director Susan Kohler says, due to an aging population and decreased funding on the state and federal level.
Missoula County Search and Rescue is seeking 1/2 mill to raise $80,000 at a cost of $2.14 on a $200,000 home. The group has long operated solely on donations but needs to upgrade its equipment and house the squad based in Potomac, whose volunteers currently keep equipment scattered in various garages. Search and Rescue Coordinator Dave Brenner says the 35 volunteers and five sheriff’s deputies who prepare for emergencies and respond when they occur went out on about 30 calls over the last year, and the people they rescued don’t have to pay a cent.
We think a community that cares for its old, educates its young and rescues those in need is a good one. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll all be old bibliophiles stuck out in the cold someday.