Kansas residents only need look south to see how different the world of property taxes can be for senior citizens.
In Oklahoma, residents ages 65 years or older who fall below the Department of Housing and Urban Development's median family income have their property tax bills frozen.
In other words, if you're paying $1,500 per year in property taxes at age 65, your property taxes will remain at $1,500 a year as long you continue to meet the income guidelines.
Such ideas get lots of praise by Kansas legislators but never seem to get quite enough votes to become law.
Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said such ideas were certain to get talked about during the next legislative session.
"I'm generally supportive of that concept," Davis said. "Nobody should ever be taxed out of their home, but I'm afraid some people may be put in that position if we don't address this pretty soon."
If Kansas does come up with some provision, it will join a large list of states that already have taken action. According to information compiled by the AARP, Kansas is just one of six states in the country that don't already have some sort of cap or limitation provision when it comes to property taxes.
More about the property tax
- State Handbook of Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Indicators 2006
- Critics of property tax increase say: 'Senior citizens are being thrown to the wolves'
- Mayor touts sales tax to merchants (08-17-06)
- Tax delinquency down from one year ago (08-16-06)
- Property tax increase moves forward (08-15-06)
- School board intends to raise property taxes (08-03-06)
- Way cleared for possible tax increase (07-29-06)
Each state's provision is different, with some states putting caps on how much local governments can increase property taxes on any group, while other states have programs designed only to protect seniors or people on fixed incomes.
"As property values increase, more and more states seem to be involved in property tax relief programs," said David Baer, a researcher who compiled the report for AARP.
Kansas does have a tax credit program that allows people ages 55 and older or who are disabled to receive up to a $600 tax credit if they meet some low-income guidelines.
Davis, who is on the House's taxation committee, said attempts to provide more relief had faced uphill battles in Kansas, partly because the state's constitution didn't allow particular groups to be given preferential tax treatment. A law such as the Oklahoma program may require the Kansas constitution to be amended, Davis said.
The past several years also have been a difficult environment to pass any tax decreases because the state has faced a cash shortage to fund education and other programs. But that sentiment began to change last session, as tax decreases for business equipment and machinery were approved.
Davis said he was hopeful a change in the state's financial health would allow property tax relief bills to be heard more favorably in the 2007 session. But he also said such bills represented a balancing act because it would be possible to pass programs that would tie the hands of local government. For example, some states do not allow local governments to increase taxes by more than 3 percent in a year unless voters approve it. That could put significant restraints on cities, counties and school districts to fund services.
"We do need to let local governments do their jobs," Davis said. "We don't need to play Big Brother too much, but I think some of these proposals have some merit."