TARGET 8 Exclusive: Why your taxes could be different from your neighbors

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JEFFERSON CITY - You could be paying more in taxes than your neighbor and not even know it. Special tax districts are small units of local government that use tax dollars to provide services like water, fire protection and school districts. But, that's not all.

In the state of Missouri, there are 30 different types of special taxing districts at the local level, but, until now, figuring out where your money was going has been a convoluted mess. So, the Missouri State Auditor wants to change that. 

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said, “I agree that it’s difficult to find information on special taxing districts in this state. There are close to 6,000 special taxing districts in the state of Missouri.”

Under Missouri law, special tax districts don't have to give numbers to the auditor if they fall under the umbrella of a larger entity like Boone County. In fact, the auditor doesn't even need to be notified when a new tax district is created. This makes it pretty difficult to figure out what you're paying into, be it a tax district or tax levies.

“A lot of people really don’t know what compromises or how that bill is computed or what makes up those bills. It’s a very complicated matrix to develop those rates,” said Kenny Mohr, Boone County chief real estate appraiser.

These tax districts and whether you've been annexed into a city like Columbia matter, because they can drastically affect your taxes.

Mohr provided an example. He said there are subdivisions in Boone County off Old Plank Road and Route K that are very close to one another, but have very different tax rates. In the Gates subdivision, there’s a property line that runs right between lots 217 and 218. If you build a $350,000 house on lot 217 and you build the exact same house on 218, you’re going to pay roughly $166 more in taxes based solely on fire bonds.

“Anywhere that has been annexed since those bonds were in place and gets annexed until the bonds expire, are going to be obligated to pay those bonds in their entirety,” Mohr said.

Another example: the 1965 boundary of the city of Columbia. If your home is inside those limits, you pay 52 cents per 100 dollars of assessed value for the Boone County Library and the Columbia Library. But, if you're outside the limits, you pay 31 cents just for the Boone County Library.

Galloway and her team are launching a new feature of the auditor's website that will take the guessing game out of taxes.

“When there are public dollars at play like property taxes especially, citizens deserve to know and deserve that transparency. So, we created this website so citizens can search by county to find the property taxes that are charged by special taxing districts,” Galloway said.

The website was supposed to launch at the end of May, but her office pushed up the launch date once they found out about KOMU News' story. 

Here's a link to the new feature on the auditor's website. It won't go live until May 1, but you can get a sneak peak like we did by connecting it through our website.

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