Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Residents Upset On RE Tax Assessments

My real estate tax has more than quadrupled since I bought my home; my RE taxes are now significantly more than my Missouri state income tax! And as I trust you have noticed, most often RE taxes increase with no voter approval and little awareness ... instead we are each at the mercy of St. Louis County.

Have you taken a serious look at your RE taxes lately? You should! Or are they under your radar, partially hidden in monthly mortgage/escrow payments? One simple thing that we each should do is personally evaluate our homes 2009 assessed value, now available on line at http://revenue. stlouisco. com/IAS.

You can view both last year's and this year's appraised values, the homes that were used as comps to "guestimate" your home's value, as well as the detail specs of your home ... also used to determine your assessed value. I found it especially enlightening to view all homes on my block ... easy to do if you specify "Clarkson Woods" in your search criteria (lower left corner of your screen), rather than your name or address or locator #. You will likely find significant inconsistencies (even on your own block) and perhaps errors ... for example I found that my lot size was over-stated 18%.

One recourse ... you can call the County at 314-615-4230 with concerns ... they will consider adjusting flagrant errors immediately, but most likely will recommend that you schedule an appeal in May after you receive your official assessment notice.

Don't let the assessment reductions for 09 lull you into complacency ... reductions average 9% while most actual values have dropped significantly more. Yet some in our subdivision got no reduction ... or even an increase ... likely due to an "unlucky draw" on the "comps" (comparable home sales in 2007 and 2008) selected by the county to determine valuation.The broader problem is that Missouri 's real estate assessment system is antiquated, inconsistent and unfair to many. Escalating RE taxes are causing serious hardships, especially seniors and low-income families.

If each property owner will focus on their individual assessment and fight back, and perhaps get involved in broader efforts to at least band-aid the system in use, we will eventually get to a fairer system of taxation.

Sen. Jane Cunningham is deeply involved in this issue. Let her hear from you. There is also a citizen's organization doing significant work ... their website is a learning experience for us all ... WWW.STLCOUNTYTAXREL IEFNOW.COM

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