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Elizabeth Marum SB 15 Testimony

Senate Bill 15 to reduce increasingly higher property taxes

My name is Elizabeth Marum and I am a board member of Big Sky 55+, an advocacy organization that advances issues & policies for those of us 55 and older. I am a senior living on a fixed income, as many Big Sky 55+ members are.

In 1998, when I was earning the highest wages in my career, I qualified for and bought a modest single-family home in Belgrade where I raised two sons as a sole-supporting single parent. My house payments over time have gone up hundreds of dollars a month despite refinancing my home at lower interest rates. This is primarily due to property tax increases. Since 2014, my property taxes have increased an average of $100/yr. and now sit at $3,028/yr.

Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely appreciate the many services that my property taxes support and I’m an avid supporter of quality public education funded by these taxes.

Still, there are not enough tools for seniors and long-time homeowners like me to stay in our homes through retirement and SB215 is a good first step in our long road to incremental relief for people like many of us.

Let me dig in a little-- The average social security beneficiary in MT earns about $1,481/mo, or $17,800/yr. My monthly social security income is several hundred dollars/mo higher than the average, but my annual income is still less than $30,000/yr. and my property taxes are 10% of my income. This bill would save me $1500/yr this year and help me and others like me every year after that.

Property taxes are regressive and they hurt those of us with lower incomes more-- those of us with fewer means to recover from the random, accidental financial blows that all of us experience at one time or another. If we are to keep cohesive communities, representative of the Montana we know and love, this bill will help.

And beyond those of us who are homeowners, renters need higher levels of income above $45,000 limit to adjust for two incomes that still can’t find adequate housing in a very hot Gallatin County market.

I would like to think of this committee as the Fair Taxation Committee. A YES vote on SB 15 will help low-income renters, families and seniors and represent taxation that is fair to more Montanans.

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