With early indications that their districts will have significantly more assessed valuation than last year, many area schools are faced, for the first time in years, with rolling back their property tax levies for next year.
The Hancock Amendment, part of the Missouri Constitution, calls for taxing jurisdictions to lower their levies so they don’t bring in a revenue increase in excess of the consumer price index, that is, inflation.
In the Independence School District, the district's total valuation was nearly $995 million. This year, the early figure is nearly $1.139 billion.
Every year, after the district receives assessed property valuation totals from Jackson County, Independence School District officials build their next budgets in anticipation they will receive tax revenue based on a percentage of a lower valuation total.
The county's Board of Equalization hears appeals every year, and the total valuation inevitably goes down a bit.
“We always build in some contingency,” ISD Superintendent Dale Herl said. “We always count on that we'll lose some to appeals.”
Herl said officials plan for about $15 million to $20 million less in total valuation across the district. When total valuation comes to nearly $995 million, such a drop can be figured in without too much consternation.
But with the sheer number of protests this year following many sticker-shock reassessed valuations – more than 22,000 informal appeals to the county and likely rising – Herl said that estimate could fall short this year.
Independence Schools will set their levy in August, and it could roll back about 30 cents from the current levy of $5.801 per $100 of assessed valuation.
As the local school district almost always is the largest taxing jurisdiction for one's property taxes, Herl said it's possible some homeowners could pay less in property taxes. Typically, he said, the big winners from valuation protests are big-box retailers and other companies that have dedicated tax attorneys.
The county's deadline to set tax levy rates is Sept. 30.
In the Grain Valley School District, Superintendent Marc Snow said the total assessed valuation rose about $53 million to $363 million. The district's levy is $5.4163.
“Right now, we're looking at 40 cents (to roll back), if things remained unchanged,” Snow said.
Snow said that after setting a levy rate, the district can make necessary small budget adjustments later based on the tax revenue that actually comes in, but with the unusually large number of protests this year, “there's a lot of unknowns for us right now.”
Also of note for Snow and his colleagues: Grain Valley's student population continues to grow and the district continues with new construction, and a rollback could affect the district's bonding capacity.
Fort Osage Schools, meanwhile, could be rolling back their levy just a couple years after voters approved a 60-cent increase to $6.37.
Superintendent Jason Snodgrass said his district's total valuation went up about 11 percent – from $284 million to $316 million. His early estimate is a possible 28-cent rollback.
Snodgrass said it's been about 15 years since the district last had to roll back its levy, and only recently did the district's total assessed valuation top where it was in 2008 before the recession.
“We've had minimal, minimal (revenue) increases, historically,” he said.
Still to be determined in future years is how the Levasy floods could affect assessed valuation.
“That is definitely a big question,” Snodgrass said.