Yesterday, we became aware that some citizens were receiving mailers that claimed we were providing “misleading” information to voters. Nothing in our mailers has been inaccurate except for slightly underestimating the tax increases people would see if Prop K passes in some cases. The calculations were only an insignificant amount due to lack of response from the KSD CFO.
Below is the timeline and information to let the voters decide who has been providing “misleading” information and who has been transparent. Citizens groups, like Tax Fairly, are always attacked by entrenched interests for simply seeking fairness and balance for taxpayers. This has occurred since the founding of the Republic. Don't be fooled!
On March 9, we purchased a copy of the March 2017 preliminary assessments from St. Louis County.
On March 10, we published an online searchable database using a software tool called Caspio which showed everyone's 2016 appraisal, 2017 preliminary appraisal, a history of their total and KSD taxes for the last ten years as well as an estimated Prop K tax increase based on the information available at the time.
On March 20, we noticed that KSD had published an online Caspio database with their logo on it. We assume that the information was purchased from St. Louis County with taxpayer funds, developed with taxpayer-paid KSD employees, and Caspio is being paid with taxpayer funds to host the database. At this time, we noticed that KSD was listing the tax increase amount with the new appraisals as well as if Prop K passed. We backed into the tax rate of $4.3279 from the information on their database. At 11:05 PM, we sent an email to KSD's CFO asking, “Can you provide us what the estimated residential tax rate is now expected to be in 2017 if Prop K passes and if it fails?”
On the morning of March 22, we sent an email to our supporters saying that we had new information and to cease distributing door hangers with the tax increase information they were given earlier as we did not want to provide out-of-date information.
That same morning, having not heard back from the CFO yet, we emailed him again asking for the tax rates if Prop K passed and if Prop K failed.
By this time, the KSD database information had changed and it now appeared as if the rate would be $4.3284 if Prop K passed.
On March 23rd at 3:18 PM, the CFO finally responded to the original inquiry and said the rate would be $4.3284 if Prop K passed and did not answer the question about what the rate would be if Prop K lost. At 3:52PM that day, we emailed back thanking him for responding but asking him why he only responded to half of our question.
On March 24, another citizen sent in an email asking him to respond to the simple question. And another called the CFO's office and asked the secretary to have him call us on the matter and respond.
On March 24, we approved the first set of our direct mailers based on the information that was available at the time and that matched the KSD Caspio database.
On March 26, we restarted our door hanger campaign and repurposed the door hangers with a "Based on your new 2017 appraisal" sticker. This information was based on the increase from 2016 KSD tax to 2017 KSD tax based on the 2017 preliminary appraisal and the tax rate of $4.3284 if Prop K passed. A sample of 100 houses was taken to compare our information and the information on the KSD Caspio database. The year over year KSD tax increase amounts for all houses were within $1.
On March 27, having not heard back from KSD CFO, we attempted to come up with our estimate of the tax rate with help from the auditor's office and the overall assessment numbers released by St. Louis County. We estimated that the rate would be $3.9181 if Prop K lost.
On the morning of March 28, facing a deadline to release our second set of direct mail, we made the decision to go with this estimate and footnote it on the direct mailer--it turned out that we underestimated the size of the tax increase information sent on some of the direct mailers.
Finally, on March 28 at 3:28 PM, the CFO responded back that the rate would be $3.9151 if Prop K failed. That night we made the change in our database and published it the next morning allowing people to see what their overall year over year increase in KSD taxes would be if Prop K passed and if it failed.
On April 1, we were notified that the Citizens for Kirkwood Schools committee had sent direct mail to citizens that claimed they were getting "misleading" info and only provided citizens with the portion of their year over year tax increase due to Prop K and didn't mention anything about their possible appraisal increases which could make their year over year tax increases much higher. Again, this was information that could not have been calculated with precision by any individual citizen and we can only assume that the information was provided to the Citizens for Kirkwood Schools committee by KSD. If they didn't provide that information to them before us, it would have been an extremely tight deadline to get the mailer info on late Tuesday afternoon and to show up in mailboxes on Saturday. Did the pro Prop K Committee ask for this information from KSD? And if so, when? And why did KSD take nearly eight full days to respond to our simple question?
On April 1, we also noticed that KSD has once again followed us and has updated their database with tax info if Prop K passes and if it fails. At every step along all the way, Tax Fairly has led the way in transparency and making the voting public as informed as possible. KSD has followed along behind us reluctantly. For voters to have this much information available to them for an April election during a reassessment year is unprecedented and is something of which we are extremely proud. To have the Citizens for Kirkwood Schools committee say our info is "misleading" is extremely disappointing and inaccurate. We would hope that they would provide the public with the same information as we do here as to when they knew of KSD's information that was withheld from us. We would also point out that the Citizens for Kirkwood Schools website continues to have information about the size of the tax increase for individual citizens on their website that is inaccurate in light of the new reassessments and new tax rate estimates. They also continue to hand out door hangers with the same out-of-date information.
Now that KSD has finally shared the information with the public, you can go to our website (www.taxfairly.info) and click on the red “Tax Information” button and enter your address to find out how much your KSD taxes will be if Prop K passes and if it fails. In addition, you can see your year-over-year change if Prop K passes and fails as well as your 2016 and 2017 appraisals.