By JEFF DURBIN, Missourian staff writer

January 13, 1999


Missouri's so-called circuit-breaker law might make a proposed property-tax increase a little easier to swallow.

The Columbia Board of Education decided Monday to put a 58-cent property-tax increase on the April ballot to raise money for schools.

The board chose a $700 raise for teachers and money for programs such as special education and literacy from among proposals offered by Superintendent James Ritter.

From now until the vote, Columbia residents will try to figure out how this proposal applies to them.

Property-tax rates vary slightly within the Columbia School District, said Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker.

"The answer depends on where you're located," Schauwecker said.

Though taxes are eternal, property-tax credits may be available for some.

People older than 65 or with disabilities may qualify for a credit of as much as $750 under Missouri's circuit-breaker law. Senior citizen or disabled renters are also eligible.

Single taxpayers who meet this qualification and have an income of $25,000 or less are eligible for the credit. Married couples with an income less than $27,000 also qualify.

State Rep. David Levin, R-St. Louis, is sponsoring a house bill, HB237, that would make more people eligible for the circuit-breaker credit.

Although it would only apply to those over 65 or disabled, the bill includes an income limit of $30,000 for a single taxpayer and $40,000 for a married couple. It also calls for a maximum credit of $2,000 instead of the current $750.

Levin said he wants to give tax relief to people on fixed incomes.

"One of the most common complaints I get is about property taxes," Levin said. "The elderly are the ones that are hurt the most."

The Boone County Council on Aging provides information on the circuit-breaker law. Debra Bryer, the executive director, said many seniors aren't aware of the property-tax credit, or that renters also qualify.

The council will help with paperwork. A volunteer is available on Wednesday afternoons; call 443-1111 to make an appointment. The council is at 800 N. Providence Road.

The American Association of Retired Persons will offer free tax information at several Columbia locations after Feb. 1. The toll-free telephone number for the Association is (888) 227-7669.