Woe Is Me – Kansas City School District
Joe Robertson, of the Kansas City Star, recently had a piece explaining that the property tax levy in the Kansas City Public School District has remained flat at $4.95 per $100 of assessed valuation for years. Meanwhile, surrounding school districts in Jackson County have been steadily increasing their taxes for education.
The article notes that the district has several expensive renovation projects in the works. Will the district attempt to increase taxes or a bond levy? According to Robertson, “The district isn’t asking for it — yet. But the trial balloons are definitely in the air.”
Well, while the “trial balloons” are in the air, we better get all the facts. It is true that the property tax levy for the Kansas City district has remained flat and comparatively low, but that does not mean that Kansas City is spending less than the other area school districts.
The graph below displays the total expenditure per pupil in Kansas City and an average of the other 11 districts in Jackson County. Even though Kansas City’s levy has remained unchanged and is lower than the surrounding areas, Kansas City spends more per pupil. This occurs because the Kansas City district has a much higher assessed valuation per pupil than the surrounding areas. Think of all the office buildings in downtown Kansas City that contribute tax revenue, but do not add students to the district.
The tax levy for the Kansas City district is lower than the surrounding school districts in Jackson County because it can be. The Kansas City district has had a consistent tax rate because it is the only taxing district in Missouri exempt from adjusting its tax rate as assessments increase. It did not have to reduce its tax rate as assessments increased during the prior decade’s housing boom. (To the Kansas City district’s credit, it appears that officials did not raise taxes during the decline, either.)
Despite having a consistent lower tax rate, Kansas City collects more revenue per pupil and remains one of highest spending districts in the Kansas City area and the state.