Earlier this month Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed into law legislation that could have disastrous effects on schools. The law essentially creates a new restriction on property taxes beyond the one that already exists. It requires localities to lower their property tax rates to offset increases in property tax assessments -- even if the rate is already below the existing rate ceiling. Missouri already has "rollback" procedures in place for localities that were already at the rate ceiling if assessed property values rose faster than inflation.
Even legislators who voted for this legislation understand that the new law will have a negative impact on the amount of money available for local schools. State Senator Frank Barnitz says, "I think that we will see funding improve to public education through our general revenue dollars, through our taxpayer dollars, and not necessarily see it only through property tax values." Only time will tell if lawmakers like Senator Barnitz are able to gain support for increased education spending on the state level, in the meantime locals may need to start preparing for a budget crunch.
In better news, this legislation also includes provisions that increase the state's well-targeted property tax credit. The credit operates like a circuit breaker and ensures that property tax cuts go to renters and homeowners for whom the property tax is most burdensome.