The Commonsense Property Rights Coalition held a successful peaceful protest against outrageous tax hikes in Oregon County. KOLR10 and other news outlets covered the protest. Hopefully positive action on the part of elected representatives will come from this increase in awareness.
Links to the stories are in the titles below:
KOLR10 Video Coverage, including interview with Assessor
ALTON – About 40 area residents attended a peaceful demonstration Monday at the Oregon County Courthouse in Alton, protesting the recent hike in property taxes. The demonstration was organized by the Commonsense Property Rights Coalition.
County Assessor Charles Alford said the increase is due to the Missouri State Tax Commission withholding funds because the county’s previous tax rate was not within 5 percent of the commission’s appraised value. The commission performs ratio studies every other year in each county to compare values that have been appraised, and counties have to be within 5 percent of the commission’s appraised value. In 2013, the state commission held Oregon County out of compliance and withheld state funding for the following year.
Mike Slack of Thayer, coalition co-chair, said by state law the county can raise property taxes 15 percent, but if it goes over that percentage a physical appraisal must be done of each property. This is in reference to Missouri Statute 137.115.10 which reads, “Before the assessor may increase the assessed valuation of any parcel of subclass (1) real property by more than fifteen percent since the last assessment, excluding increases due to new construction or improvements, the assessor shall conduct a physical inspection of such property.”
“Our goal is to make the state and the county follow the law,” Slack said. “There has to be equal protection under the law for everyone.”
ALFORD: TOO LITTLE MANPOWER
Alford told the Quill today in regard to the coalition’s concern over the 15 percent statute, that’s why his office spent the past year and a half conducting a review. He said lack of manpower prevented him from physically inspecting every property, but the majority of properties have been inspected. He said he talked to a state lawyer who told him there would only be a problem if his office made no effort at all to physically review the properties. He said home site land values, which are zoned, are the only thing that changed. He said a large jump in taxes occurs if something has changed from what’s on his office’s record, and he cited an example of someone he knew whose taxes jumped 400 percent because his 20 acres of land now had housing installed.
Alford said he thinks “it’s good for people to speak their minds and let people know they’re concerned on the state level.”
The Missouri State Tax Commission, according to its website, measures the accuracy of assessments in each county and works with assessors to promote an accurate and fair assessment program. It conducts seminars and training sessions for assessors and their staffs. The Commission also hears taxpayers’ appeals from the local Boards of Equalization, and is responsible for the
statewide assessment of the property of railroads, airlines, pipelines, electric and telecommunication companies.
Slack said county residents could schedule a hearing with the Oregon County Board of Equalization to contest the increase, and several did so during the demonstration. City Clerk Tracy Bridges said 24 have filed, and Monday was the last day to file.
Slack told the Quill today, “We were happy with the number of people who came, and we had several go in and file for hearings. The more people who file the better off we are.”
In regard to the hearings, Alford said, “I’d personally advise people to appeal and go through the process. If some end up at the state level, however, the state rules is what we’ll have to go by.”
Slack said Northern Commissioner Ed Casey came out and spoke with the demonstrators for about an hour and “seemed to understand we were there to support our elected officials.” However, Slack said he was more displeased than before with Alford, who spoke to a coalition co-chair inside but did not come out and talk to the demonstrators.
Jeremy Young, Alton, political activist chair for the coalition, said, “We elected the assessor. As an elected official, he is directly responsible to we the people, the voters. But he’s got this commission breathing down his neck. We’re giving the power of taxation to a tax commission, three people appointed by the governor, who aren’t accountable to anyone. That’s taxation without representation.”
He said the coalition has spoken with 143 Dist. Rep. Jeff Pogue (R-Salem) and 33rd Dist. Sen. Mike Cunningham (R-Rogersville) about getting legislation passed to remove the power of the tax commission and put it back in the hands of the county. He said his property taxes have gone up 100 percent.
“If you’re going to raise the taxes, which nobody wants to see, at least be fair and equal about it,” he said.
Slack said the matter will be discussed further at the coalition’s next meeting. They meet 6 p.m. every first Monday at Fred’s Fish House in Mammoth Spring, Ark. That organization is co-chaired by Slack, Kevin Jotz and Korey Whitelock. They will also discuss the topic at a Campaign for Liberty’s meeting 6 p.m. Thursday at Chen’s Garden in West Plains.