When voters turn out Tuesday, April 6, they will be asked to tax themselves more — in most cases between $50 and $90 per year — but help is available.
Rick Gilmore, member of the St. Joseph School District Board of Education, said he is inspired to try to persuade members of the community that this change will not impact some of the most vulnerable members of the community. That’s because of the Missouri Property Tax Credit.
“My father was a retired city fireman,” Gilmore said. “His pension was tight; money was always tight. And he was eligible for this, and it paid his property tax on his home for the last 20 years of his life. And so it’s a very beneficial program.”
Known as the “circuit breaker,” it dates back about four decades. It provides senior citizens and 100% disabled persons, among others, up to $750 in credits — issued as a state tax refund — on annual rent and up to $1,100 in credits to property owners. To qualify, a single renter can earn no more than $27,500 a year, and a single homeowner can earn no more than $30,000 a year. Married couples have higher allowances of up to 12.5%.
Proposition CARE, the $107 million bond set by the St. Joseph School District, will hike the debt service levy for district constituents by just under 30 cents, leaving it 80 cents. The estimated annual increase ensues based on the average value of a single-family home in Buchanan County, as found by the school district and its financial adviser.
The Missouri Budget Project tracks usage of the Property Tax Credit based on districts of the Missouri Senate. According to that group, in 2017, just under 2,200 households received the credit in District No. 34, covering Buchanan and Platte counties. Just under 2,650 households received the credit in District No. 12, covering the state’s entire Northwest area and the rural counties east of St. Joseph. The statewide average is just over 2,950 households per district.
“Renters — who are disproportionately represented among fixed income families — also can face high property taxes relative to their incomes,” the group found.
Gilmore said he hasn’t conducted any formal survey, and knows of no such data, which might indicate how much opponents to Proposition CARE are motivated by economic angst or fear of paying higher taxes they can’t afford. Nevertheless, he is offering information about the tax credit, he said, in hopes of assuaging fears and getting more eligible households to take advantage of it.
“I know, mostly, opposition is from people who want to maintain the three-high-school position we currently have,” Gilmore said. “But they also have the point that people can’t afford to pay more property tax. And, for some people, if you’re in a financial situation, this could help.”