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Montana has become a very popular place for people who want to retire to a beautiful place or live on a ranch for a few months over the summer. Great for the state, but it’s driven up property values tremendously. Great for property owners…..except for when it comes to tax time. The LA Times looks at the case of Charles Abell, who bought his place on Flathead Lake near Whitefish (map above) for $35,000 in 1967. He’s raised his two kids there and figured he stay in his house until he died. But now his 70-year old house is valued at $553,900 on the tax rolls and his tax bill is nearly $10,000 and climbing. He’s not as bad off as his brother, who has a cabin and four acres on the lake worth $4.2 million, according to the state. His brother’s tax bill is over $30K, more than his annual income.
“There’s no relationship between these tax bills and your ability to pay. It’s just that we’re the beginning of the food chain,” said Abell one recent afternoon to Times reporter Kim Murphy. “They tell us, ‘You’re sitting on a couple million dollars; why don’t you sell it?’ But this is where I raised my children. It’s not for sale. It’s my home.”
This is a problem faced in any state that depends heavily on property taxes for revenue. And it will become an increasing phenomenon as boomers retire to rural areas.