Charges "socialism" and unresponsive city manager in passionate three-minute speech
COLUMBIA, 6/29/12 (Beat Byte) -- It may not get any weirder than Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker defending small-fry taxpayers, school children, and average citizens facing higher property taxes, which he did with passionate panache Tuesday evening.
"I've asked some hard questions of the city manager by email, but I haven't had any response," Mr. Schauwecker told the crowd, in a pointed shot at Columbia city manager Mike Matthes.
TIF financing shifts the property tax burden to other taxpayers, Mr. Schauwecker said, ultimately leading to higher taxes for everyone else. He also took issue with City Council control of the TIF process. City government receives 6% of property tax dollars, while school districts and other agencies receive the other 94%, Mr. Schauwecker explained.
"I find it ironic that a minority stakeholder has the authority to divert the other 94%," Mr. Schauwecker said. "It's almost socialistic."
The real irony lay elsewhere, however, and this publication has reported on it for years.
Audience applause for Mr. Schauwecker's impassioned challenge apparently pressured Matthes, who called the assessor's argument "that we are taking dollars away from kids" a "straw man." TIF abates tax dollars that don't exist yet, Matthes said, motivating projects that would not happen without the incentive.
But Mr. Schauwecker persisted, arguing in several follow ups that downtown Columbia doesn't need tax incentives. "There is no stronger real estate market, no more valuable land" in Boone County than the land in downtown Columbia, he said. "Look at the concrete trucks, look at the cranes, look at all the student housing. The downtown is vibrant."
Presently running unopposed for re-election to his 23rd year as Boone County's assessor, Mr. Schauwecker explained that his position on TIFs has been "clear" from his stint on the first TIF commission, during which he voted against a TIF for the Tiger Hotel and a defunct mixed use project from the Odle family.
"I do not believe in public subsidy of private real estate investments," he told the audience.
Which brings us back to the real irony of this story. The community clearly doesn't care about it, so we won't repeat it here. We'll just sit back and enjoy watching sharks eat sharks, until they inevitably close ranks and start feeding on taxpayers again.
Video of TIF meeting from CiViC. Tom Schauwecker speech starts at roughly 1:00:00; several follow ups continue