(The Center Square) – A flood of Missouri counties are attempting to freeze property taxes for seniors, and a nonprofit is opening the floodgates.
Senate Bill 190, passed by the General Assembly in May and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in July, allows counties to grant a property tax credit through an ordinance or by a vote. Taxpayers who are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, own a home and pay property taxes can receive a credit. The credit amount is the difference between the year they became eligible and subsequent tax years.
“We’ve got it passed in five counties and we’ve got 25 more counties looking at it, including three counties that contacted me just this week,” Dennis Ganahl, founder and managing director of MO Tax Relief Now, said in an interview with The Center Square. “They’re all at various stages of development.”
Some counties are planning to exempt some government or public organizations from the tax freeze.
“I see 114 different iterations of this if the counties decide to go with this program,” Steve Hobbs, executive director of the Missouri Association of Counties, said in an interview with The Center Square, referring to the number of counties in Missouri.
St. Louis Democrat Mayor Tishaura Jones held a roundtable on the tax freeze for seniors on Wednesday. City leaders are drafting legislation to freeze taxes for seniors at 2023 levels, but also seeking to ensure revenue for public schools and other civic institutions, according to a media release from her office.
“People in the General Assembly and in the public seem to think they get their bill from the county each year and the county keeps all of it,” Hobbs said. “The truth is the county collects for the political subdivisions in each community. …. And the bulk of the money collected goes for schools.”
Hobbs’ organization formed a task force to review the new law. Both Hobbs and Ganahl agree it discriminates against taxpayers who won’t receive Social Security benefits, such as teachers, railroad workers and federal workers.
“They created a task force and I think they were ready to cut the bill when bills are filed Dec. 1,” Ganahl said, referring to the first day legislation can be filed for the 2024 session. “But I think they’ve realized it’s just too popular. There are some things we would like clarified. We don’t want counties arbitrarily putting in caps and saying who is eligible.”
Ganahl said emails and phone calls from members of his organization prompted the legislature to pass the bill. He said he witnessed organized opposition from the Missouri Association of Counties a few weeks ago, but more counties are seeking his organization’s advice for implementation.
“The direction was to stall,” Ganahl said. “They gave talking points like schools won’t be able to give teachers raises. Tell them the bill is too vague. Tell them the schools need money. Tell them it’s too hard to implement and your county employees won’t be able to implement it. … I don’t want to say the opposition is gone, but they have softened it.”