Chronicling the Renaissance of North Central, the Heart of Columbia

Sunflower vs. 6th:  A Tax Bill Double Standard?

Is a dubious double standard at work in the Columbia City Council, a body that considers itself normally fair minded?

A few weeks ago, the council faced residents angry over late tax bills for street repairs on North 6th Street, in Almeta Crayton's ward. Council passed those tax bills in April 2001, but did not bill for them until November 2005, 4.5 years later.

Now, the Missourian reports that residents of Sunflower Street -- in Councilman Chris Janku's ward -- are equally upset over street repair tax bills assessed 5 years late.

But where council steadfastly refused to lower or abate the taxes for residents of North 6th -- a lower-income central city neighborhood -- they appear ready to do so for Sunflower Street residents, even reversing some of their
previous arguments and dismissing the concerns of Public Works director John Glascock.

About North 6th Street, Council member Brian Ash told residents: "It's standard City policy that we share the cost of street improvements with the abutting property owners. I just don't see how you can convince Council that the City is being unfair."

But about Sunflower Street, Ash now says, "it would be fair to exempt certain property owners to make up for the city's tardiness."

About Sunflower Street, Assistant City Counselor Susan Crigler called the late tax bills "a burden for those where the property has changed hands."

Yet several properties on North 6th -- including one now owned by a single mother purchased with city assistance -- also changed hands after Council passed the tax but before it was billed.

About North 6th, Councilman Bob Hutton notes in meeting minutes that "this project had been completed for over a year. He felt it needed to be tax billed when the improvements were fresh in everyone's mind. He noted most of this was discussed at the public hearing prior to construction, but that was too long ago."

Too long ago, but still no break for North 6th.

Chris Janku -- who supports a Sunflower Street tax abatement but opposed a similar abatement for North 6th -- is up for re-election to his 20th year on the city council, so politics may be at work.

Let's hope that's all it is.

-- Mike Martin

(Disclosure:  The writer owns property on N. 6th Street.)

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