Friday, August 28, 2009
Board of Aldermen Increase Property Tax by $140,000
by Greg Walters In a rare early Friday evening meeting the Raytown Board of Aldermen increased the city’s property tax by $140,000. The increased tax will be paid by all property (homes, businesses) within the city limits, as well as all personal property (automobiles, recreational vehicles). The move by the Board was in response to recent devaluation of real property by the Jackson County Property Assessment Department. According to City Finance Director Jeremy Wilmoth the tax per $100 per valuation would increase as follows if the Board approved the bill before them. CITY PROPERTY TAX RATE Old Tax Rate = .3189 New Rate approved by Board of Aldermen = .3668 PARK PROPERTY TAX RATE Old Tax Rate = .1539 New Rate approved by Board of Aldermen = .1832 The increase was approved by a vote of 7 Yes, 2 no and 1 absent: VOTING IN FAVOR OF THE TAX INCREASE: Joe Creamer, Shane Pardue, Pat Ertz, Jim Aziere, Christine White, Charlotte Melson, Jim Hamilton VOTING AGAINST THE TAX INCREASE: Bill Van Buskirk, Michael Lightfoot (Steve Mock was absent) However, the decision was not without controversy. Four private citizens spoke against the tax increase. They pointed to statistics that show that the average homeowner in Raytown, particularly those on fixed incomes, is being squeezed hard by the current recession. The four that took the podium to speak did not hold back. Shirley Whitman questioned why the Board would call a meeting at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday evening to discuss the matter. Her husband, Clem Whitman, spoke personally of retirees who have seen their pensions cut and their medical coverage slashed. He told the Board that Raytowners are hurting financially and could ill afford a property tax increase. Mike Carpino told Board members they should be happy the County did not include foreclosed and abandoned properties in their estimation of property values. He asked the Board to vote no on any proposed tax increase. Former Ward 1 Alderman Greg Walters pointed out that the city has already increased the sewer tax this year, and that electric and natural gas prices are expected to see double digit increases this year. He pointed out that with each increase the city reaps a windfall from the franchise taxes. He told Board members that many Raytowners had lost their jobs or seen their salaries frozen, reduced or hours or work cut -- that many were living “on the bubble” and were in danger of losing their homes. He asked the Board to vote against any tax increase in any form. Ward 4 Alderman Bill VanBuskirk spoke against the increase. He pointed out that the city already has hidden tax increases each time a utility increased its cost. He also suggested that the city should tighten its built and live within its means. THE VIEW FROM HERE . . . This year the Board of Aldermen handed out five percent pay increases across the board to all city employees while most Raytowners were seeing their take home reduced. The Board has made some very questionable decisions that have cost the city. The most recent being the revelation of a $800,000 bailout to bondholders of the Walmart TIF on 350 Highway. Former City Finance Director Dan Estes probably said it best years ago when the city was rolling in cash when he coined the phrase “hogs at the trough” to describe what was happening to city finances. The taxpayers in Raytown did not create the Walmart debacle. They did not create the recession that has shrunk their nest eggs and devalued their property. They do not deserve this tax increase. The majority of the Board of Aldermen was very wrong in what they did last Friday evening. Voters should remember their lack of compassion and arrogance when they go to the polls in two years. What's Next . . . ? Don't forget the Raytown School Board Tax Rate hearing that will be held on Monday, August 31st. They are asking for over $2.00 in property tax increases. The meeting will be held in the School District Headquarters located at 6608 Raytown Road. The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. This is a public hearing. All in attendance will be given an opportunity to speak.