Government & Politics

Frank White proposes $3M tax cut to help offset much-criticized reassessment process

Jackson County Executive Frank White announced Sunday night that he is proposing a $3 million property tax cut that could help lessen the blow of a countywide reassessment process that has been criticized for its alleged ineptitude and big increases for certain neighborhoods.

White said two-thirds of property owners likely would owe county government less this year than last, if their home value held steady, under his proposal. For those whose values went up, the reduction would mean their taxes would go up less than they might have otherwise.

The county has previously said that about half of all homeowners — 54 percent — saw increases of 15 percent or less during the 2019 reassessment. Nearly a third saw much larger increases, double and triple what they were on the tax rolls for a year ago, leading to tens of thousands of appeals.

If approved by the county legislature, White’s tax cut would only apply to county government’s levies, which accounts for less than 10 percent of the tax bill of someone who lives in the area served by the Kansas City School District.

The timing of the emailed announcement was unusual — 6:14 p.m. on a Sunday — as White typically delivers formal statements on government policy during the work week, with Friday afternoon announcements being common during his almost four years as county executive.

But it helped him begin the week on a positive note ahead of Monday’s meeting of the county legislature, whose members are expected to direct criticism at the county executive after a particularly brutal week of negative news for his administration.

It began with KCTV5 airing a series of stories focusing on how the county had allegedly mishandled the assessment process. Relying on internal county emails obtained through an open records request, the station reported on how county officials scrambled behind the scenes to fix or explain away their mistakes.

Then on Wednesday, Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker released a report that said White and his predecessor, Mike Sanders, had used revenues from the Community-Backed Anti-Crime Tax (COMBAT) for things that did not serve its core missions of fighting illegal drug use and violent crime.

White responded Friday evening with a written statement saying that the report was filled with errors and demanded that it be retracted until those mistakes were fixed. He did not question the overall theme of the report and Baker shot back with a press release of her own, saying that any mistakes in the COMBAT report were White’s own responsibility.

White offered no specific numbers to explain how he would achieve a $3 million tax cut, but said it would be achieved by rolling back county tax levies beyond what the state requires after reassessment.

“The County executive is proposing the maximum amount that the County can rollback their property tax levies that will still generate the revenue necessary to support the County’s 2019 budget,” news release said.

State law forbids most taxing districts from receiving a big windfall from the reassessment process. After subtracting revenue from new or improved real estate assessments, tax revenues received from existing properties in the aggregate can go up no more than 1.9 percent this year. However, individual tax bills can go up much more, while others could see declines.

Dozens of other taxing districts have yet to set their levies, but White said he hopes they will follow his lead.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

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
  Comments