Next steps: reform of property tax assessment


As elected officials leave Jefferson City and return to their families and jobs, The Missouri Times examines legislative priorities that could make headlines for next year’s session. The Next Steps Series present some legislative issues and consider what may follow.

While taxes are often discussed in the upper house, several attempts to change the Property Assessment politicians have failed to cross the finish line in recent years. As the next legislative session approaches, some lawmakers say they are ready to rekindle the conversation.

Property assessments are done every odd-numbered year and the results are administered the following year, with rates varying from county to county.

Senator Mike Cierpiot, which represents part of Jackson County, said he heard from many voters struggling with sudden tax hikes, an issue he has tried to address in the past two sessions.

The language of this year would have required that half of the growth in assessed property values ​​exceeding 15% be applied to the current year, with the remainder being applied to the following year. While the current policy applies the full increase next year, Cierpiot said the sharp increase is detrimental to many homeowners.

“Our property taxes are getting out of hand and it’s really having an impact on people with limited means,” Cierpiot told the Missouri Times. “A lot of middle income people have been hit very hard by these rising property tax assessments, and I think we need to do something that makes them predictable and curbs it to some extent.”

“We need to find a way to ensure that rates rise to a predictable level even with inflation and not just hit people all at once,” the Republican senator continued. “Some people’s property taxes have gone up 40% to 60%, and that’s just crazy. If the county is to reassess more often, it should do it rather than hitting people with these huge tax bills that cripple them financially. “

A report of the auditor Nicole galloway echoed his concerns earlier this year, finding that several appraisal contracts had been allowed to expire and appeals from landowners eased the county’s total appraisals by $ 246 million.

Cierpiot said a bill to automatically revise increases above 15 percent was another avenue under consideration.

Cierpiot isn’t the only lawmaker to focus on property assessment reforms in next session: GOP Senator Tony Luetkemeyer led a bill over the past two years, which would have capped residential real estate valuation growth at 5% or the percentage increase in inflation, whichever is greater.

“Over the past two assessment cycles, property owners have seen dramatic and surprising increases in their property tax assessments,” said Luetkemeyer. “In some cases, owners are forced to leave their homes. This is unacceptable. I will be tabling legislation again this year to control these abuses. ”

One situation that is unique to the Cierpiot District, however, is Jackson County’s assessor status as an appointed official. While voters approved Amendment 1 of 2010 that got all of the other Charter County assessors elected, Jackson County was left out of the mix.

Cierpiot sponsored an attempt put the change on the ballot during the last two sessions; this year’s effort went out of committee but did not reach the floor for discussion.

“There are billions of properties in Jackson County, so it’s very hard work, but some people have just been wiped out by this,” Cierpiot said. “We have to find a way to phase it in or limit it, but it could also make it more real to the evaluator when it comes to responding to voters instead of just the Jackson County executive. That’s the way most counties do, and I think Jackson County should do the same.

Cierpiot said he would work with lawmakers and stakeholders from other major counties to find a way forward and bring relief to his constituents – whatever form it might ultimately take.

“A lot of people in my district are fixed income retirees. These are people who have a certain income, and when taxes double, it is very painful for them, ”Cierpiot said. “We have to find a way to make sure it’s predictable even with inflation and not just that it all falls on their knees.”

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