Government & Politics

Jackson County legislators call on Frank White to throw out reassessments, start over

In assessment shock? Don’t panic just yet. Take action to avoid that big tax hit

Assessments on single family homes in Jackson County were up 18 percent on average this year, but some are far higher. But county officials say you can steps to challenge the increase and avoid a bigger tax bill.
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Assessments on single family homes in Jackson County were up 18 percent on average this year, but some are far higher. But county officials say you can steps to challenge the increase and avoid a bigger tax bill.

Jackson County legislators say this year’s real estate reassessment process was flawed and unfair and are calling on County Executive Frank White to throw out the results and start over.

In a written statement released Friday, all nine members of the legislature urged White to throw out those values and “provide a resolution to this situation.”

The push for a redo of the biennial setting of market values for tax purposes is in response to criticism from taxpayers whose values shot up several fold in some cases.

County legislators do not have the power to make the changes they suggest. A top aide to White said reassessment is governed by state law and White could not freeze values.

White said in a tweet Friday afternoon: “Apparently Jackson County Legislators have put out a statement asking me to halt the assessment process. So they want ME to break state law because THEY lack the political will to do what’s right? It’s that lack of political will that keeps the County from moving forward.”

Assessment errors were blamed for some of the large increases. But perhaps a larger factor was the assessment department’s determination to make up for past failure to accurately reflect the values of homes and businesses.

Houses that were selling for $250,000 were on the tax rolls at $50,000, for instance. Those homeowners were paying far less in taxes than the owner of a $250,000 house that was listed on the tax rolls closer to that dollar figure.

But while acknowledging the unfairness of those sorts of inequities, legislators said it was unfair for White and his current assessor to try to make up for past mistakes all at once.

“Surprising current residents with such a huge increase in one year’s time is wrong,” the statement said. “None of us argue that we should have properly valued homes, but it’s not our constituents’ responsibility, in one year to fix this issue especially when many of the values are calculated wrong.”

In announcing this reassessment, the county said more than half of the county’s homes increased in value by 15 percent or less since 2017, a third went up by more than that and the rest stayed the same or declined.

Commercial property values went up 36 percent on average, but also saw sharp spikes.

Assessment director Gail McCann Beatty, a former state legislator, said she is bound by state law to set property values at market rates.

More that 21,000 taxpayers filed informal appeals before Monday’s cutoff. Legislators said there is no way Beatty can process that many before her own statutory deadline this weekend.

Appeals can also be filed with the Board of Equalization until July 8. The board extended the time by three weeks because assessment notices were sent out later than expected.

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Mike Hendricks is a member of The Star’s investigations and watchdog reporting team. Send tips and story ideas in confidence by email to mhendricks@kcstar.com, Twitter direct message @kcmikehendricks, or anonymously via Signal encrypted message at 816-234-4738
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