The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
It's tax time again. The schools, as usual, take up the lion's share, somewhere in excess of 70% of real and personal property taxes. For those who live in Warrensburg, the city is a distant second, absorbing about 10% of the tax bill. Out in the County, second place goes to the fire district at about 6%. County taxes, including roads and bridges, come to only about 5.5%; the ambulance district at 5% almost matches it. The Trails Library, Western Missouri Medical Center, County Health Services and the sheltered workshop complete the local taxing bodies.
Total taxes are about 6% of the assessed value of the property, which is a statutorily fixed percentage of the actual value for real property. Business property is valued at 1/3rd its actual value, while the residence is taxed on only 1/6th of its value; farmland is even lower. However, the assessed valuation of personal property (such as cars) more closely approximates its real value, which seems to me to be a disincentive to buy newer cars.
Property taxes aren't all the taxes, either. We pay sales tax on every purchase, so cities (where the stores are) gain a lot of financial support from non-residents. We pay a lot of taxes and fees on our phone bills – 42% of my home phone bill! We pay gasoline tax, we pay income tax, we pay hidden taxes – you do know businesses do their best to pass along every tax they pay. I wonder how much we’re really paying in taxes each year.
I really wish we could be more certain that our money is being well-spent. A plethora of boards and agencies is involved in the spending, and we've seen all too many boards, both public and quasi-public, fail to exercise proper financial oversight. We've seen a board that attempted to fulfill its oversight function criticized in the press. We've seen reports on government body finances that were confusing – do you wonder how the county collected more sales tax revenue for the general fund and less for law enforcement or roads and bridges? Aren’t the three taxes all at the same rate? Are some purchases not subject to some of the taxes?
What we really need is less taxation, simpler taxation (Fair Tax, anyone?) and more accountability.
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