By: Anna Sago
Columbia Missourian

Boone County Commissioners say they aren’t ready to freeze property taxes for seniors, arguing that more needs to be done to prevent schools and other property-tax-reliant government entities from losing essential operating funds.

Commissioners on Tuesday (Nov. 21) passed a resolution calling for state leaders to adopt “clean-up legislation” during the 2024 General Assembly that would address concerns about the financial impact of the proposed freezes on local government operations.

Several local entities within Boone County said the freeze under Senate Bill 190 could cost them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue annually. Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick reached out to each entity earlier this year to ask for an estimate on how much each entity stood to lose if property taxes for senior residents were frozen.

Columbia Public Schools estimated that it would take a $3 million to $6 million hit, according to information provided by the county. Southern Boone School District forecast a possible loss of $641,000. Daniel Boone Regional Library estimated it would lose about $101,000.

Previous Missourian reporting indicated that there had been confusion among local lawmakers regarding the implementation of the bill, which could impact the annual budgetary loss for property-tax-reliant entities, such as school districts and public libraries. For example, in an email to the Commission, David John Downs indicated that the State Tax Commission’s interpretation would require the credit to be calculated based on the assessment of the property when an individual first became eligible.

“Under such an interpretation, a 92-year-old property owner would be effectively capped at the residential property tax paid thirty years ago,” Downs said. “This would result in an increased loss of local revenue supporting our educational programs.”

Kendrick also cited the part of the bill that refers to social security eligibility as an area of confusion for local lawmakers.

The county resolution includes support for model legislation drafted by the Missouri Association of Counties, which would “resolve the issues of vague and overbroad language” in the bill, according to a news release.

Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, expressed her opposition to the Boone County Commission’s resolution in an emailed statement to the Missourian, arguing that she wants to see freezes implemented more quickly. According to previous Missourian reporting, Reisch created an initiative petition last month to put tax freezes on the ballot in 2024.

As of Tuesday, she estimates it has approximately 2,000 signatures — around half of what it needs to be added to the ballot.

“Other Counties have already enacted the freeze this year,” Reisch said in the email. “I do not plan to wait on what may or may not be changed in the law.”

Kendrick responded that as of Tuesday, only five counties had taken action on the law, which went into effect on Aug. 28. Plus, he said, tax freezes would not take effect until 2024 at this point anyway.

Looking forward, Kendrick said that the Commission will continue working with the Missouri Association of Counties to find sponsors in the Missouri House and Senate for a bill containing clarifying language going into the 2024 Legislative Session.