The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
The indoctrination sessions to get us to vote for the proposed Warrensburg R-VI school tax increase have begun. While none have been held as I write this, I’m certain that one of the arguments we’ll hear is something along the lines that Hancock Amendment rollbacks have reduced the school levy. This is disingenuous at best, so let me explain how the Hancock Amendment affects school taxes.
The Hancock Amendment was passed by the voters in 1980 and can be found in Article X of the Missouri Constitution. Its intent is to control profligate spending by government bodies by limiting how much taxes can be raised without voter approval. State and local governments are handled differently. For school districts, the control mechanism is based on the value of existing property.
When a general reassessment increases most property values, everyone’s taxes would be increased. This would create a windfall for school districts, as they would receive more money even when the property owners had no additional earnings to pay the taxes. The Hancock Amendment says that the school district can’t get any more money from the same property just because its “value” increased. So, the school board must roll back the levy rate to get approximately the same amount of revenue from this existing property. Any increases in revenue must come from new construction & improvements. A fast-growing area will have quite a bit of new construction, which will increase school revenue.
Why is this fair? Look at it this way. Say that general value of property in the district increases by 10%, your house along with it. Without the Hancock Amendment, your school taxes would increase 10%, even though you have done nothing to improve the property. Now, say that your property is in a “hot” area and is reassessed at a 20% increase while the district as a whole increases 10%. Without Hancock, your school tax would increase 20%; with Hancock, your school tax only increase is based on the amount that your value has increased over the general increase.
But wait a minute! Not all taxes are subject to rollback. Debt service (bond) levies are exempt from this provision, so that portion of your school tax used to fund bond issues will go up based the full amount of the reassessment. Also, rollbacks do not affect taxed personal property (boats, vehicles, etc. - about 20% of R-VI school property taxes), since the value of existing property decreases with age (to a certain point); however, the overall personal property tax base keeps increasing as people buy new cars & boats.
Conclusion? Make them sell the tax on whatever merits it may have and don’t buy any sob stories about rollbacks.
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