Source: US State of Missouri
It’s Time to Reassess Tax Increases
In mid-June my phone lit up with desperate constituents on the other end of the line. The calls kept coming, all with the same complaint. Residents received notices that their homes had been reassessed and their taxes were going up—significantly. To make matters worse, several of the tax bills arrived at the last minute, just hours prior to the deadline for filing an appeal.
I was not the only legislator to receive such complaints. State law requires property tax reassessment every two years. 2019 was the year county assessors decided that Missourians needed to pay more—a lot more.
In Jackson County, the value of 74,000 properties increased by exactly 14.9 percent—a number that coincidently avoids a state requirement for physical inspections. Not every property owner got off so easy. Other residents—especially those in lower-income areas—saw property assessments double or even triple. The situation wasn’t much better on the eastern side of the state in St. Louis County, where the influx of appeals was so overwhelming that a member of the assessment board there resigned his position, claiming the workload was too great.
For many Missourians, their home is their biggest asset. The equity in their home is a nest egg—the one tangible thing they have to show for a lifetime of work. A number of constituents I heard from this summer expressed fear that they could not afford to keep their home, due to skyrocketing tax bills.
In subsequent months, I and fellow lawmakers met with local officials, Realtors and representatives of the Missouri State Assessors Association. We told them something must be done. Some of the extreme increases we’ve seen have been egregious.
This session, I will file a number of bills to remedy runaway tax assessments. My legislation will require taxpayers be given adequate notice of proposed increases, ending the era of “eleventh-hour” tax hikes. The legislation will also cap how much assessments can increase during an assessment cycle, so property owners will never see their taxes double or triple overnight.
While I understand property values rise over time, taxpayers should not be subjected to sudden and exorbitant increases. Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall once said: “The power to tax, involves the power to destroy.” In no area is that more true than in instances involving taxation on real property—literally the ability to tax someone from their home. It’s time to stand up for Missouri taxpayers. The unexpected rise in property assessments cannot continue.
Senator Tony Luetkemeyer serves residents of Buchanan and Platte counties in the Missouri State Senate. For more information about Sen. Luetkemeyer, visit www.senate.mo.gov/mem34.