“Can You Smell It In The Air, Opus?” “Dirty Socks?” “No, Reassessment.”
One thing that my brother, Mike (the second-oldest of four, with moi being the eldest), and I have in common is a devotion to the “Bloom County” comic strip. I own all the books, have read them all at least six times, quote them a lot, etc., which is also true for Mike. For whatever reason, many of my interests/hobbies are ones I share with my friends (“The Simpsons,” politics, Axis and Allies, darts, trivia nights, everything sports), but “Bloom County” — like skiing and Coen Brothers movies — is one I mostly share with my family. There are certainly crossovers between these sets of interests, especially so for politics and sports, but for whatever reason my friends never really gotten into “Bloom County.” Dunno, maybe they’re cooler than I am. …
I know what you are thinking: Is there a point to all of this? Not really, but because I am the only staffer to make it through the snow to come in today (thanks to my new 4WD SUV, and the fact that I live only a mile away), I may be particularly inclined to poignancy. Which gets me to reassessment, that special period every two years in Missouri during which our property gets revalued — a process that determines our tax rates.
This morning’s Wall Street Journal has bad news for anyone expecting the upcoming reassessments to lead to tax cuts, at least in the St. Louis area. You can’t read the full article without a subscription, but I’d like to point you to the map that’s on page one today, if you are interested. This map lists the decline in the price of homes in about thirty major cities during the past year. St. Louis has one of the smallest declines, at 3.7 percent. Many other cities have seen declines well into double digits, and only a few cities have slightly smaller declines.
This is all pertinent because, as the Post-Dispatch has reported recently, many homeowners are gearing up for a fight in St. Louis County, which has been ground zero for assessment and property tax issues during the past decade. From what I’ve heard, many people were astounded when, in an article that ran a few weeks ago, the St. Louis County assessor claimed property values really hadn’t gone down that much. Well, at least according to Zillow.com and the WSJ, he may be right. Frankly, the difference may be even less than negative 3.7 percent in St. Louis County, because that number applies to the entire metro area, and the new home construction prices in extended suburbs like St. Charles have probably fallen more than areas like St. Louis city and county.
I am not saying that this is a good thing. Of course, I would like to see lower property taxes and less government involvement in our lives. Fewer government employees and (self-assumed) government responsibilities are the best things that can come from a recession. But, to repeat what I said here a few weeks ago, the best thing that most of us can probably hope to arise from this reassessment in Missouri is that our property taxes will remain level for the next two years. Considering how much they have increased during past cycles, perhaps a leveling-off would not be so bad.