Getting Less out of More: Kansas City’s Declining Tax Base
The use of incentives such as TIF and abatements appears to be eroding Kansas City’s tax base.
In the chart below, the blue line shows the total assessed value of real property in Kansas City, Missouri. The red line shows the percentage of that property value that is taxed. Clearly, the two measures are heading in different directions; as more and more real estate is developed in the city, a lower and lower percentage of property value is taxed.
The excessive use of tax incentives appears to be leading to a decoupling of assessed value (AV) and taxable value (TV). That is, as the city experiences more and more growth, its tax base stagnates. Normally, TV would rise (or fall) at the same rate as AV.
The gap between the two has been steadily widening since the mid-2000s. In 2000, AV was 49% greater than TV, but in 2015, it was 59% greater. And that 10% isn’t chump change. If TV tracked AV at a constant rate, in 2015 there would have been an additional $200 million on the tax rolls. That means the city, school district (KCPS), library (KCPLS) and other jurisdictions are missing out on tens of millions of dollars each year. In 2015 alone, the city, KCPS, and KCPL together lost out on nearly $36 million in revenue. Instead of funding education and essential services, those dollars went to wealthy developers—developers with no real need for public financial assistance.
So, despite the claims of developers and officials, the use of incentives in Kansas City is contributing to a hollowing out of its tax-base. Even though there are more and more shiny new buildings, the city is collecting taxes on an ever-shrinking percentage of them to support essential government functions.