Cape County taxes could be a lot higher

Most Cape Girardeau County property owners between now and the end of the year will perform the annual duty of turning over good portions of their money to the county in the form of taxes.

For some it can be a painful task, particularly if they haven't put the money aside by Dec. 31, when taxes are due. Payment of real-estate taxes only seems a bit easier on those with escrow accounts attached to their home mortgages, because lenders make the tax payments to the county and taxpayers need not worry with it. The reality, of course, is that taxpayers paid monthly into the account over the course of the year so the taxes could be paid on time without penalties and interest.

Personal-property taxes are a bit easier to take, since most of these taxpayers are paying taxes only on vehicles they own. But these taxes too can take significant jumps for taxpayers who acquired newer vehicles.

Cape Girardeau County has billed taxpayers a total of $37 million for 2001, up more than $6 million over last year's amount. Although many taxpayers are quick to blame the county when their taxes go up, the truth is most of the taxes they pay go to school districts. The county simply collects taxes for taxing entities in the county and turns the money over to each.

Of the $37 million billed in the form of 34,000 real-estate and personal-property tax statements, $27.3 million is for real estate and $9.7 million for personal property, the bulk of which is on vehicles. Of this, seven school districts will get $27.5 million, eight cities will get $3.6 million and road and fire districts, the county health department and sheltered workshop will get their shares of the remainder.

Taxpayers this year were hit with a double whammy: automatic property reassessment, which increased the taxable values of many homes and businesses, and levy increases in five school districts:

Cape Girardeau, with a 58-cent levy increase; Oak Ridge, with a 30-cent increase; Nell Holcomb, with an 11-cent increase; Jackson, with a 10-cent increase; and Meadow Heights, with a 24-cent increase.

While it may be painful to turn over all of that hard-earned money each year, county taxpayers can be thankful they don't live in other places where taxes are much higher.

The reason county and city taxes are so much lower in Cape Girardeau County is the existence of a countywide sales tax and city sales taxes in Cape Girardeau and Jackson, which mean much of needed tax revenue is derived from taxes paid by non-residents who shop in Cape Girardeau County.