One Way to Actually Do Something about Kansas City Property Taxes
Between now and the start of the legislative session, all of my blog entries, social media posts, radio interviews, holiday conversations with family and friends, and random encounters at the mall with total strangers will be dedicated to focusing on ways we can improve municipal policies in Missouri.
I am going to take these one at a time because, frankly, this stuff is so hot I doubt you all can take any more than that. Let’s start with one of the most pressing issues where the voters are actually in charge.
As a relic of Kansas City’s famous school desegregation case, Kansas City 33 School District’s (KCSD) tax rate is managed by the constitution, not statute. Under the Missouri Constitution, article 10, section 11(g), KCSD is exempt from property tax rollbacks when assessments increase, leading to dramatic tax hikes on Kansas City residents in recent years. Trust me when I say that the KCSD has reveled in this fact and ostentatiously kept rates high despite enormous assessment increases during the past three (at least) reassessment cycles.
Here is the exact language:
Operating levy for Kansas City school district may be set by school board. — The school board of any school district whose operating levy for school purposes for the 1995 tax year was established pursuant to a federal court order may establish the operating levy for school purposes for the district at a rate that is lower than the court-ordered rate for the 1995 tax year. The rate so established may be changed from year to year by the school board of the district. Approval by a majority of the voters of the district voting thereon shall be required for any operating levy for school purposes equal to or greater than the rate established by court order for the 1995 tax year. The authority granted in this section shall apply to any successor school district or successor school districts of such school district.
Voters need to repeal this section entirely. That means we need a ballot measure approved either by initiative petition or by the legislature allowing us to vote on a repeal. By repealing this constitutional provision, KCSD’s tax rate would be governed by the same rules as all other taxing jurisdictions in Missouri. That’s all. As assessments increase, rates would roll back at least in part to offset the tax hikes. Voters in the district could, of course, raise the rate if they chose to.
We should care about property tax rates for everyone, not just wealthy suburbanites. The residents of KCSD don’t deserve these constant tax increases. This provision may have been useful a while ago when the desegregation case was ending, but it is no longer needed.