A group of 12 Missoula property owners have filed a lawsuit against the Montana Department of Revenue this week for property valuations that they believe are “unfair.” Attorney Quentin Rhoades says in the space of one year, his clients saw a radical change.

"There are some shocking examples," Rhoades says. "The range of numbers that we have are people whose property has increased  by 80 percent in value in one year, and that's the low end! The 'winner' here is up 461 percent, in one year. It seems to us that that is a glaring error and it happens across all of the city of Missoula."

Of course, property valuations play into the total amount of taxes these property owners must pay.

In 2015, the Montana Legislature voted to have the Montana Department of Revenue reassess property values every two years rather than every six. Rhoades speculates that the change in law, combined with under staffing may have led to the spike in valuations.

"This is an educated guess on my part, we haven't done the discovery, the lawsuit is just starting, but this law is new," Rhoades said. "This law came into effect on January 1, 2016 so it's something new for the Department of Revenue to be administrating, and sometimes people make mistakes when things are new, they don't have experience with how to do this, they don't have sufficient staff."

Only commercial property owners are represented in this lawsuit, but Rhoades says it may pave the way for a lawsuit representing residential property owners. The lawsuit requests a declaration that the property valuation process used in Missoula County was "illegal or improper" and for a "recalculation" of plaintiff's taxes paid under protest.

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