WATCH: In Forthcoming Documentary “Engen’s Missoula” Councilman Jesse Ramos Explains TIF

The increase taxes collected from a district are diverted to the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, starving the general fund.

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Yesterday, local writer, artist, and videographer Travis Mateer released a trailer for a forthcoming documentary about Missoula called “Engen’s Missoula.”

The trailer features Ward 4 City Council member Jesse Ramos explaining how a tax scheme called “tax increment financing” skims off the top of property tax-payers yearly tax bill and redirects funds to the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, an unelected body appointed by Mayor Engen.

“Imagine the City of Missoula has a property tax base of $100 million dollars,” Ramos starts out. “It’s a big pie. Divide that pie into three roughly equal slices: the city, the county, the schools. The three taxing jurisdictions.”

“Now, let’s take… Urban Renewal District 3. Let’s just say that particular slice of pie has a property-tax basis of $10 million dollars at the time the district is created. For the remainder of that district, the only money that goes to the police, the county, the schools is the $10 million bucks. That’s it,” Ramos explains.

“There is still growth because property taxes go up, new construction, everything else, inflation, everything goes up. Let’s just say that district grows from $10 million dollars to $15 million dollars. The $5 million dollars of growth is skimmed off the top and given to the Missoula Redevelopment Agency which is an unelected board of mayoral-appointed bureaucrats. Every single one of them has donated to the Mayor’s re-election campaign,” Ramos says.

How a district’s tax growth is diverted to Missoula Redevelopment Agency. “Engen’s Missoula”

The mayoral appointed members of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency board include Natasha Prinzing Jones, Ruth Reineking, Nancy K. Moe, Karl J. Englund, and Melanie Brock. The MRA also has five paid staff including Director Ellen Buchanan, Jilayne Dunn, Tod Gass, Annette Marchesseault, and Lesley Pugh.

According to a 2020 Financial Report from the MRA, last year, public-private partnership recipients that were funded by MRA-diverted funds included Stockman Bank ($268,716), Radius Art Gallery ($146,888), and The Trail Head Sports Shop ($150,000). Public-private partnership expenditures totaled $1.1 million.

The report also outlines over $3 million spent on public projects including the purchase of the Sleepy Inn on Broadway to house homeless people using $1.1 million in public-tax diverted funds. The county ran the hotel with Federal Emergency Management Administration dollars until the Governor’s end to the state of emergency in June. The building has sat empty with plans to reopen the hotel using Federal COVID dollars.

Dilapidated Sleepy Inn Motel. 1427 West Broadway.

Mateer said he is trying to demystify the tax increment financing scheme with the release of the trailer and describes the forthcoming documentary as a “hammer” that can break through the complicated inner-workings of the City-County government.

“Our elected officials in Missoula often speak about their lack of ‘tools’ when it comes to enacting their vision for this town, so I decided to give them a new tool for their toolbox,” Mateer said. “That is how I like to think of ENGENS MISSOULA dot COM, a tool, like a hammer, that can smash local ignorance regarding complicated concepts, like Tax Increment Financing.”

Mateer started a GoFundMe to raise money for the final production and distribution of the documentary. You can read his blog and listen to his podcast where he covers local news and politics at Reptile Dysfunction.

UPDATE (11/14/2021): Post updated to include mayoral board appointees to the MRA.

Roy McKenzie

Roy McKenzie has lived in Missoula since 2017 and runs his own software development company. Roy is the Editor of Missoula County Tyranny. Get in touch with him on Telegram.

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[…] with issues associated with Engen’s nearly 15-year mayorship including “TIF” or tax increment financing, “The Missoulian,” “Property Taxes,” and “Homelessness.” The […]

[…] month, Mateer released a trailer for the documentary featuring Ward 4 City Council member Jesse Ramos explaining how a tax scheme […]

Jane VanFossen

Paragraph 6 contains factual errors. The people named are actually paid employees of MRA. They manage MRA projects and contracts.
The Board members who decide how TIF money is allocated are unpaid volunteers.

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