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Gallatin County commissioners are commended for canceling delinquent taxes more than five years in arrears. The back taxes, much of which were due on mobile homes, will cost the county an estimated $300,000. But the county is in a far better position to absorb the loss than those living on the margins in the current housing market.

County Treasurer Jennifer Blossom said the move, approved unanimously by the three commissioners, would help some 100 taxpayers or more. The cancellation of taxes on mobile homes goes back as far as 2003.

We’ve all been through a lot over the last 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered businesses and cost many in the service industries their jobs. And those on the lower end of income levels were particularly hard hit.

Adding to local economic woes, the pandemic has brought a wave of newcomers who bought up homes — often at prices higher than what was asked. The net effect has been to plug both the home buying and rental markets tight and drive the costs sky high. That has made keeping a roof over one’s head particularly challenging.

And keen on taking advantage of high demand in the real estate market, developers have been buying up every piece of land they can get their hands on. That has meant the demise of several mobile home parks in recent years. This has further limited the options for housing for low- and middle-income individuals and families. And it has created a housing crisis within the city of Bozeman, which has exacerbated a labor shortage for local businesses.

Granted, $300,000 is a small portion of the county’s overall $200 million-plus budget. But every dollar counts as local government scrambles to deal with growth, and it will take some belt-tightening for the county to go without the delinquent taxes. In the alternative the county could have begun the process of recovering the taxes through the sale of the properties in question. But that would have been the height of cruelty under the circumstances.

The county — and its taxpayers — can live without these long-delinquent taxes. And forgiving them may help at least a few people get back on their feet.

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