New Housing in Bourbon County by Gregg Motley

Gregg Motley. President of the Bourbon County Economic Development Council. Submitted photo.


Consider the following data about housing SEK; new houses built from 2016 and 2019 by selected county:

Allen 60; Bourbon 10; Cherokee 47; Crawford 288; Linn 182

Also consider that 8 of the 10 houses built in BB were TINY houses, costing about $40,000 a piece. Only two market houses were built during the time period considered. Why are we the tip of the tail on the SEK housing dog? A few thoughts:

It is not employment. We have a strong employment base, and it seems that every employer is hiring. About one in three workers commute into BB from another jurisdiction. The lack of good jobs is not the problem.

It is not quality of life. We have as many amenities, if not more, as the competing counties listed above. Crime is not out of control, and community spirit is generally good. We have good schools, a good community college, good churches, and good cultural amenities.

First and foremost, it is taxes. Consider the fact that if you live in Fort Scott, you pay the highest tax rate of all first-class cities in the state, save one: Parsons. Here are the levies of the counties listed above:

Allen 62.88; Bourbon 66.67; Cherokee 51.70; Crawford 50.14; Linn 49.94

Yes, we are the highest in the area. We don’t even compare to Vernon County, Missouri.

The number two reason is related to the first: year after year of low comparable sales, because of high taxes, makes it VERY difficult for bankers and mortgage lenders to get an adequate appraisal to make a loan on a new house. Those who want to build a new house will have to come up with at least 30% down, perhaps more. Who can afford to throw away all that equity?

What is the solution? Some proposals:

Control the cost of government by looking at shared services. We can’t afford the luxury of taxing entities in close proximity ignoring each other, and replicating structures.

After we lower costs, reduce the levies. We have to get competitive with our neighbors. Also, we have to increase our assessed valuation, not by increasing the value of existing properties but building new ones.

Exploit what we have. Why does Linn County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates, and lowest household incomes in the state, build so many houses? Besides low taxes, they have lakes on which residents and those who want a second home can build. We have miles of undeveloped lake shoreline in BB.

Look to build public/private/charitable partnerships to explore solutions. It will take private creativity, public investment, and some charity to get the housing ball rolling, until taxes can be mitigated, and comparable sales increased.

Let’s make this a priority and seek solutions together.

15 thoughts on “New Housing in Bourbon County by Gregg Motley”

      1. Undeveloped probably due poor water/waste conditions of this (lake), zoning/codes are possibly not enforced and brings back thoughts of what was going on at “Gardner Lake”, Gardner, KS

        1. Water condition is not the problem. Deed restrictions and requirements can be put in place to uphold reasonable standards.

  1. I agree with you! Why do people here still vote for new taxes? The county has the worst roads in all the places I have lived. So where is all the money going?

    1. Good question. The cost of salaries, materials, and basic services rises every year. More money buys less now.

      1. And so the ‘machine’ gets fortified by combining ‘City/County’ functions under the guise of consolidation to lower costs, in which case, then does it still require commissioners paid to represent both entities?

        Seems very much similar to the era of “Pendergast”!

        Maybe, conduct ongoing (external) examinations and audits of the ‘RFP’ and project awards process, follow the money trail and see how often it is directed to (insiders).

        1. Topstep, you call for accountability and transparency, but comment anonymously. NO system of government, no how many audits or reviews are performed, will guarantee character. We must recruit and work for candidates of integrity. Even “free” public service won’t do it.

  2. How many basis points would we have to lower taxes so that the replacement rate in new taxable properties equals the same total tax revenue? Can we do that year over year until we are at parity with the other counties? And fix the problems you say over time. Fixing those problems seems like a longer duration than dropping the taxes a tiny bit year over year. We have to attack this from multiple angles.

  3. Kansas City , M0, (Jackson county) for years have charged all out of county living workers an E tax of 1 percent.
    Why not Bourbon county?
    The out of county folks wear out our roads and leave us
    the taxpayers the repair bills.

    1. I would be more in favor of looking for ways to attract them to live here. We can’t make it harder for BB employers to recruit the people they need; it is already extremely difficult. Having worked in Downtown KC for years, I know what it is like to pay the tax, and then look for employment elsewhere to avoid it.

  4. I’m in total agreement. We are thinking of moving in 2 years if the taxes continue to go up and no relief accomplished. We pay $500/mo for property tax. Crazy!! We love living here, but it’s getting harder to stay due to the high cost.

    1. Your personal example is case in point. We don’t want to lose you! We have already lost so many.

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