Property Tax Proposals in Missouri
Senator Mike Cierpiot is suggesting some changes to Missouri reassessment procedures as the state undergoes the biennial reassessment process. The primary change discussed in the article is a proposal to phase in any property assessment increase above 15 percent (and the related tax increase) over a two-year period instead of homeowners being hit with the higher assessment and taxes all at once. I think this is a reasonable suggestion that would be a small yet positive policy change to help people deal with property tax increases.
He also suggests that Jackson County elect its assessor, which I also think is a good idea. St. Louis County made that change about a decade ago, and I think the change has been beneficial. This way, voters can always bring back the crooked assessor (as happened in California) if they want to. However, the only way to really address property tax increases in Kansas City is to change the state constitution. Currently, an exemption in Missouri’s constitution allows the Kansas City school district to maintain its tax rates even as tax assessments rise significantly. That is the biggest part of the problem in Jackson County.
It is not a coincidence that Sen. Cierpiot, who represents Jackson County, wants to address this issue. Over the past several assessment cycles, Jackson County has been a hotbed of property assessment and tax disputes, within both Kansas City and its suburbs. SMI analysts have written about this issue before. There are two main factors at work. One is that, for whatever reason, Jackson County does appear to have been historically under-assessed.
My belief is that the under-assessment was a response, in part, to the large school desegregation tax increases ordered by Judge Clark in the 1980s. It doesn’t matter how high someone raises your property tax rates if the property is substantially under-assessed. The Missouri State Tax Commission instructed Jackson County a few cycles ago to correct the under-assessment, and that is primarily what led to such a large increase in assessments in Kansas City in 2019.
The second part is also related to Kansas City school desegregation. Per the Missouri Constitution, the Kansas City school district is the only taxing entity in Missouri exempt from property tax rate rollbacks. So, when the assessments increase dramatically, as they have in Kansas City, taxpayers in Kansas City school district see no rollback in the rates. That results in a very large and immediate tax increase, and that situation has to be addressed. If elected officials from the Kansas City area really want to make a major change that will address a big part of the problem, they need to propose amending the state constitution to make the Kansas City school district roll their rates back when assessments increase.