Times have changed in the years between 1984 and 2012, but in five days, Independence voters will consider something they last considered all of those years ago.

The year was 1984.

Ronald Reagan was our president, and Barbara Potts was mayor of Independence. The portable CD player was invented, and the Apple Macintosh computer was introduced. What cost $1 back then cost $2.07 in 2010, according to an online inflation calculator. Movie tickets cost roughly $2.50 each, and a gallon of gas was a mere $1.10.

Today, portable CD players are all but obsolete, having been replaced by MP3 players in the early 2000s. Apple products seem to be everywhere – I write my articles on an Apple desktop as I listen to music on my iPod. Movie ticket prices fluctuate from $5 to $10, depending upon what day of the week and at what time you go.

Say the words “gas prices” in a crowded room, and you’re likely to hear an echo of groans and sighs. On Tuesday, the pumps near my apartment were at $3.63 – and I was pleased. They’d dropped 2 cents, and I’ll take any decrease I can get.

Times have changed in the years between 1984 and 2012, but in five days, Independence voters will consider something they last considered all of those years ago.

On Aug. 7, 1984, the city of Independence proposed an increase in the real estate tax levy for public health and recreation funding uses.

That was the last time the city asked voters to consider a real estate tax levy increase. Nearly 28 years later, on Tuesday, the city will ask voters to consider the same, but this time, it’s for more police officers.

The ballot question then stated the following: “Shall there be a 15 cent increase in the tax levy on $100 valuation for general municipal purposes to be applied to the Public Health and Recreation Grounds Fund, for four years in the city of Independence?”

The results: 5,100 residents said yes, while 10,349 voted against the tax levy increase. The proposition failed to carry because it didn’t receive the necessary two-thirds majority.

I asked the city manager’s and city clerk’s office for help in finding when Independence voters last approved a real estate tax levy increase. City Clerk Jane Sharon did a thorough search of the city’s electronic records that go back to the 1960s and only found the 1984 election. Further research, I was told, would require city staff to physically go through records, resulting in costs for staff time.

According to the city manager’s office and the Finance Department, prior to 1984, the general tax levy in Independence was at its maximum of $1. In 1984, the Hancock Amendment and reassessment caused the levy to drop to $0.68. With reassessments through the years reflecting an increase in property values, the levy decreased in response.

In the past several weeks, I’ve answered several questions posed by readers and bloggers on The Examiner’s website. A statement was made recently about the financial impact that the proposed real estate tax levy would have on homeowners.

The person writing the blog post had said on a property valued at $80,000 (he or she didn’t specify whether it was residential or commercial, so I did the math for both) the proposal would increase a tax bill by $288 a year, which is inaccurate. The correct calculations are shown as follows:

Residential property is assessed at 19 percent of the market value in Missouri; commercial property is 32 percent of market value and agricultural property is assessed at 12 percent of market value. The increase would not affect cars, boats and other personal property.   The market value is based on the most recent bill from the Jackson County Assessment Department.


RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY

Market value of $80,000 = assessed value of $15,200

– Levy is per $100 of assessed value

– $15,200 divided by 100 = $152

– $152 multiplied by $0.3629 (the proposed levy increase) = $55.16 per year

    

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

Market value of $80,000 = assessed value of $25,600

– Levy is per $100 of assessed value

– $25,600 divided by 100 = $256

– $256 multiplied by $0.3629 (the proposed levy increase) = $92.90 per year



The city of Independence does not collect a tax levy on personal property, such as vehicles. The city, however, does have a motor vehicle license fee, and it is included as a line item on Jackson County’s personal property tax statement, said Jim Harlow, the city’s director of finance and administration.

This week, I received an email from a reader who was curious about a $5 city license fee that started out years ago as a window sticker that was put on car windows. According to Harlow, many years ago, the city did bill and collect a motor vehicle license fee, as well as issue a city sticker that was attached to the right inside corner of a vehicle’s windshield.

But that sticker system is no longer in place, and citizens pay just one bill since the fixed fee is a line item on the Jackson County person property tax statement.

The fee varies upon the type of vehicle – it’s $4.50 for motorcycles and scooters; $5 for motor vehicles, except for commercial; and $6 for commercial and recreational vehicles. Jackson County collects that revenue, takes some as a collection fee and remits the rest to the city. The revenue goes into the city’s general fund.

“It is totally and completely separate from the proposal on the ballot,” Harlow said, “and, it has no relationship to a property tax levy.”

This will be my last column, obviously, before the vote on Tuesday. However, please feel free to send me an email, give me a call or post further questions on the special blog at examiner.net for this issue.

I’ll answer questions on the website.