"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Changes to Property Assessment

December 4th, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

Show-Me Institute policy analyst David Stokes takes a look at Missouri’s property reassessment system, and considers the many assessment complaints lodged by Missourians — particularly in the state’s larger and faster-growing counties.

Stokes suggests that the current method of assessing individual homes before determining the county’s average rate of increase should be reversed, using aggregate house price measurements as a starting point. He believes this would eliminate wide discrepancies from house to house that undermine faith in the current system, and result in substantial taxpayer savings from employing fewer assessors.

By David Stokes

Like a more frequent, less welcome, and much more expensive Halley’s Comet, property reassessment returned to Missouri this year. As the suburbs have expanded, complaints formerly confined to Saint Louis and Jackson counties have moved into adjoining counties, giving the reassessment issue more focus for many legislators. The Speaker of the House has appointed a task force on the issue, scheduled to issue a report later this year. What should Missouri do, if anything, about its assessment system?

The problem is not with the use of property taxes to fund local governments. The problem lies in the seemingly arbitrary way in which assessments are set, which leads to a lack of public faith in the property tax system’s fairness in Missouri’s larger and faster-growing counties.

Until recently, this problem has been confined to Missouri’s two largest counties, with their appointed, professional assessors and computer-based systems. Because of the obvious factors of human nature and political survival, elected assessors in rural Missouri have not increased their appraisals as rapidly — or as accurately. This is a serious issue in cases where taxing districts cross county lines. For years, the underassessed residents of Saint Louis city paid less than they should have to the taxing districts they shared with Saint Louis County, such as the Zoo-Museum District.

For better or worse, depending on your perspective, the assessments in Saint Louis city have become more accurate, and
consequently higher, during the past few cycles. These problems have now moved to the extended suburbs, with dramatic assessment differences between older homes and brand-new developments.

Missouri should eliminate the practice of sending hundreds of assessors out into our neighborhoods every other year to assess property. In the current system, each county assessor uses the comparative sales method to assess every home in the county. The county’s average rate of increase is realized only after all the homes are reassessed. I believe the process should be reversed. Read more…

Related: 

Stokes case study cited by St. Louis company 

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Tags: David Stokes · Show Me Institute · St. Louis

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