The value of all the homes and business property within local school districts has grown tremendously in the last two years, from 19% in Bozeman to 23% in Big Sky and more than 24% in Belgrade.

The Gallatin County superintendent of schools’ office released data this week based on the state Department of Revenue’s recent property reappraisal.

Home prices are rising in the Bozeman market, and every two years the taxman updates its appraisal of each property to reflect those rising values. The value of newly constructed homes and businesses is added to that to determine the value of all property inside each school district.

For Gallatin County’s high school districts, the market value of all property totals nearly $23 billion. That’s up 16.5% from last year.

The increases range from a modest 3.6% in Willow Creek to 12% in the Three Forks high school district, nearly 17% in Manhattan and West Yellowstone, 23% in Big Sky and 24% in Belgrade.

The 19% leap in the Bozeman School District’s property value doesn’t mean people’s taxes will go up that much, said Mike Waterman, the district’s business services director.

Tax bills for schools — the biggest chunk of people’s property tax bills — depend on two things — the tax rates set by school boards and whether the value of your house has increased more or less than your neighbor’s, or the district’s average, Waterman said.

The schools’ tax rate is likely to be lower, but everybody’s house is worth more.

“If your house appreciates faster, if your assessment went up more, you could have a tax increase,” Waterman said. “If your house went up slower, (your property tax) could be steady or have a decrease.”

Waterman said he’s still crunching numbers to present to the Bozeman School Board on Monday night, when trustees will vote on approving budgets for the coming year and set tax rates.

“The amount we levy is going to be pretty similar to last year,” he said. “New growth is going to pay for the new revenue we’re looking at.”

Waterman said he has heard that this is the biggest growth in property values that one longtime employee has seen in 24 years.

“It’s definitely a landmark year,” he said.

Matt Henry, county superintendent of schools, said for property owners, seeing the value of their property rise is good news if they plan to sell. But potentially, they might have to pay more taxes.

“When tax valuations increase, the tax burden on individuals decreases,” Henry said. “It means there are more property owners sharing the tax burden now.”

Henry added, “I’d rather see property values in Gallatin County increasing than decreasing.” When values drop, he said, “That creates different problems. We’re fortunate that way.”

Broken down by elementary school districts (generally smaller areas than high school districts), the county superintendent’s figures show the following increases in property values (rounded for simplicity):

  • Willow Creek: 5%
  • Shields Valley: 7%
  • Pass Creek: 8%
  • Three Forks: 12%
  • Gallatin Gateway: 13%
  • Amsterdam: 17%
  • Manhattan: 17%
  • Springhill: 17%
  • Bozeman: 19%
  • Anderson: 19%
  • Cottonwood: 19%
  • Malmborg: 19%
  • LaMotte: 20%
  • Monforton: 21%
  • Belgrade: 23%

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2633. Follow her on Twitter @gailnews.

Gail Schontzler covers schools and Montana State University for the Chronicle.

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