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Legislature Takes First Step In Hiking Jackson County Property Taxes

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3 file photo

Jackson County property owners should brace for a property tax hike when they get their December bill.

County legislators Wednesday voted 9-0 to roll back a property tax cut from several years ago.

The "intent of the Legislature" resolution had been kicked down the road twice in the past month as lawmakers and Jackson County Executive Frank White decided how to spend the additional $19 million a year.

In the last few days, legislators finally came to an agreement.  “As quickly as we can move forward, we will begin to spend that money on a new jail,” Legislative Chairman Scott Burnett said after the Wednesday meeting.

At first, the additional money would be used to acquire land and pay architects. Some money would go to fix problems at the downtown jail like faulty elevators and leaky plumbing. And some, says Burnett, would be used for pay hikes. “It’s hoped that we can give everyone some sort of raise.”

But eventually, the extra money would for pay for debt service on what's expected to be up to $200 million in bonds to pay for the new facility.

While it took a couple of weeks to hammer out a deal between lawmakers and White, in the end, Marshanna Hester, White's spokeswoman, said it was the right decision to roll back the cut and earmark the money for the jail. "We worked hard together to do what's best for the county."

Planning for a new jail has been stalled for months. White was not initially convinced a new jail was needed, but with the vote to return to a higher property tax rate, White appears to be on board.

The county is waiting for two reports—one from a jail task force appointed by White last December and another from Shive-Hattery, an Iowa-based architecture and engineering firm. Hester said she expects both reports by the end of this month.

Burnett said Jackson county cut property taxes during the recession. “It was the intent to give the taxpayers a little bit of a break back then. But now we need this money for deferred maintenance and a new jail.”

The Legislature still has some work to do before the rollback happens. There must be a public hearing and lawmakers must vote on the final ordinance.

Since the county would go back to a property tax rate previously approved by voters, the proposed tax increase does not need to go on the ballot.

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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