Thursday, January 24, 2008

Residents Up In Arms Over Real Estate Tax Assesments

The unfairness of the St. Louis County is shown in the manner in which they assess residential properties. Fairness can be elusive, especially when the county taxing authorities are writing and interpreting their own rules on property assessments.

Prior to 1985, residential real estate was assessed at the price paid for the property. The house building industry was successful in getting a St. Louis County senator to submit a bill to change that. Since then residential real property has been assessed at "Fair Market Value" or a percentage of that elusive amount every two years. This creates a "stealth tax" on all residential properties without a vote of the citizens. In effect, this is taxation without representation since the tax assessor is appointed not elected.

It is patently unfair to people who purchased their homes in the past, to arbitrarily decide the value based on what others have sold their homes for. Houses are as different as people and State of Missouri should do something about this injustice to homeowners, especially those on fixed incomes.

The Hancock Amendment was supposed to keep this increase in taxes in line with the CPI, but there are huge holes in the amendment, and the intent of that legislation to limit tax increases to the CPI is routinely abused and ignored by St. Louis County. According to county records, 271,000 homes had increases of more than 15% in the recent reassessment process. That's about 75% of all homes in St. Louis County!

It is time to fight back! Our county legislators aren't going to do anything unless a grass roots movement to demand changes is put forth by county citizens who are carrying the burden of the highest real estate taxes in the state. A recent talk with a state legislator who pointed out that St. Louis County provides 26% of the state's total revenue!

There is a group of pro-active home owners who are working to get the unfair assessments and taxation of residential property changed. Recently this group, which now numbers nearly 1000, has established an internet site;

I hope every homeowner who thinks that real estate taxes are out of control will log on to that web site and register your vote against continuing this "picking of our pockets" by St. Louis County!

. . . Jim Keefe, Ballwin

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