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News & Press: Montana Supreme Court

Supreme Court reverses ruling on property taxes during condemnation

Wednesday, May 17, 2017  
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The Montana Supreme Court has ruled that the city of Missoula does not owe property taxes accruing on a water utility’s property during a pending condemnation of the utility.

The ruling reverses Helena District Court Judge Kathy Seeley’s ruling that she erred in her interpretation of state statute on proration of taxes in a condemnation when she ordered a refund to Mountain Water and assessment of property taxes against the city.

Justice Jim Rice, writing for the 7-0 majority, said the parties in the case had read more into the statute than was actually there. The statute simply established a tax proration date that is more favorable to condemnees than under general law, and provided no additional or alternate process to accompany this adjustment.

Rice wrote that it is common sense that Mountain Water would retain responsibility for taxes until a taking occurs.

“If a condemnation action is ultimately unsuccessful and the owner does not lose possession of the property, then the property tax obligation, along with the use and enjoyment of the property, would have rightly remained with the owner during the litigation,” Rice wrote.

Read the full opinion at the Supreme Court website.