Another Distortion - The Missourian: Opinion

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Another Distortion

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Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2014 6:30 pm

Although the city’s annexation proposal was defeated, some opponents apparently feel the need to continue to spread misinformation.

A scare tactic of opponents during the campaign was that the city would raise city property taxes in order to finance extension of services to the new areas.

That’s not true, of course, because Missouri’s Constitution requires voter approval to increase any taxes. It can’t be done by the city council acting alone.

We’re not sure how much that distortion affected the outcome of last week’s election but it certainly resonated with some city voters.

A chief opponent wrote in a letter to the editor in Wednesday’s Missourian that the city has raised property taxes in eight of the last 10 years, apparently in an attempt to reinforce that claim.

That’s not exactly true.

Yes, there were slight increases in the property tax rate each year, but those were based on a formula used by the state in setting maximum tax levies for ALL taxing entities.

That formula is designed to ensure that a taxing entity receives roughly the same amount of revenue as in the previous year.

If the assessed value of property declines, as it has in recent years, the tax rate is adjusted higher. If assessed values increase, the tax rate is reduced, according to the state’s formula.

The tax rate approved by the council each year — following a public hearing — is based on assessed valuations of property provided by the Franklin County assessor and the state formula, according to Mary Sprung, Washington’s finance manager.

Under that state formula, tax rates fluctuate every year, Sprung said.

But it doesn’t result in generating more tax revenue for a government entity.

The city council does have the authority to voluntarily reduce the property tax levy, which it has done in previous years.

But the council can increase the levy only with approval from the voters.

That’s the law. And that’s a fact.

/opinion