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Jackson County homeowners of retirement age will see tax relief — but not until 2025

Homeowners in Jackson County who are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits can start to see relief from rising property tax bills, although not until 2025, under a new program approved by the county legislature Monday.

Legislators had hoped to provide some relief this year, but county staffers said there was too little time to enact a program before tax bills are sent to the printer next month. Legislators worried that rushing the program might result in some people having to repay the county down the road, should those taxpayers be ruled ineligible.

Missouri’s legislature recently passed a law that gives counties the right to offer property tax credits to older people, regardless of income or need. St. Charles County passed its version last week. Others have, as well.

Under Jackson County’s plan, tax bills would be frozen at the 2024 level for most people 62 and older.

The county crafted its ordinance to limit the credit to people whose primary residence is valued for tax purposes with a market of “under $550,000.” It only applies to their principal residence and not other real estate they own.

The state set the age floor at those who are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. The earliest Americans can start collecting those benefits is age 62. But not everyone that age or older is eligible for social security payments, such as some government employees.

Also, those who are eligible do not need to be receiving Social Security benefits to get the property tax credit from Jackson County.

Property owners, particularly retirees on fixed incomes, have been complaining since assessment notices went out late this spring about the possibility that rising property taxes will price them out of their homes.

While admitting some errors, the county’s director of assessment says the property values set for tax purposes largely reflect market realities. Real estate prices have been surging and Missouri counties adjust property values every two years, which makes the increases sting all the more.

Some local taxing districts, but not all, are required to roll back their tax levies so that they don’t receive a windfall from those rising values. So the final bills might not be a bad as feared.

The county tax lid ordinance takes effect next year, unless a court challenge invalidates any part of the state law that authorized the county’s action. If that happens, the county tax credit would be nullified, the county’s ordinance says.

But that is not when taxpayers might benefit. The earliest they will see a break is when the bills go out in the fall of 2025. The credit would equal the difference between their 2024 tax bill and the one they would have received in 2025, had they not gotten the tax credit.

That will give taxing districts time to prepare for the impact, although the county did not provide a fiscal note indicating what the impact would be on the multiple taxing districts, of which county government is only a small portion. Among those who will be impacted the most are area school districts.

DaRon McGee, chairman of the county legislature, and legislators Manny Abarca, Megan Marshall and Donna Peyton were members of the Hickman Mills, Kansas City, Lee’s Summit and Raytown school boards, respectively, until they were elected to the legislature last year.

In a statement issued after passage of the ordinance, McGee wrote: “The passage of this ordinance reflects the commitment we have for our constituents throughout the county and our dedication to support and push forward legislation that protects and positively impacts the livelihoods and the day to day life of those in Jackson County.”

Abarca and Marshall were also quoted.

The ordinance passed with eight votes and legislator Charlie Franklin abstaining because he said he would benefit due to him being older than 62 and benefit to the tune of “thousands of dollars.” Three other legislators older than 62 did not recuse themselves.