The fact that Edmundson (a small town in North Saint Louis County) doesn’t levy a property tax on residential property might be compensation to its residents for dealing with screaming jet engines every day. However, businesses facing higher property taxes would probably want city homeowners to chip in, jets or no.
Raising property taxes is sometimes a necessary evil, but when a city decides to raise property taxes on only one kind of property, it just seems, if not exactly evil, definitely unfair, and what’s especially galling is that (1) commercial properties in Edmundson—and the rest of Missouri for that matter—are already assessed at a higher rate (32 percent) than residential property (19 percent); and (2) commercial properties already pay a much higher property tax rate than residential properties (who pay zero property taxes) in Edmundson.
This commercial property tax hike goes up for a vote on November 3, and I won’t be surprised if city residents vote for a tax that someone else has to pay. But that doesn’t make this proposal good policy. Businesses in Edmundson could be facing tens of thousands of dollars in additional property taxes. Some businesses might even leave if this property tax increase is enacted. Property tax rates should be uniform (or very close to it) and low for everybody. If cities don’t have the self-discipline to have uniform rates, then the state should step in and make it so.
It’s readily apparent that the passage of Senate Bill 5 has caused some municipalities to scramble for new ways to raise revenue. A general property tax increase may or may not be the right way to go. However, singling out a specific type of property for a tax increase is bad policy.