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Jackson County Officials Suggest One Last Fix For This Year's Assessments

Sam Zeff
People line up Monday at the downtown Jackson County courthouse to file their reassessment appeal with the Board of Equalization. The BOE extended the appeal deadline to July 29.

In a move that caught the Jackson County Board of Equalization (BOE) off guard, one member proposed Monday that the entire reassessment should be tossed out.

“It’s essentially a do-over,” said Preston Smith who represents Blue Springs schools on the BOE.

Under Smith's plan any property whose market value increased by more than 200 percent would see a hike in valuation of 14 percent.

If the property jumped 100 percent to 200 percent, the valuation would increase 13 percent.

A reassessment hike between 15 and 100 percent would have a 12 percent valuation increase.

“This can fix the entire process overnight,” Smith said.

Smith said under Missouri law a BOE can order such an across-the-board action. “When you have an assessment that is done so incorrectly that you essentially have to do a do-over. We’re there.”

The State Tax Commission confirmed that Boards of Equalization in Missouri have that power. However, Maureen Monaghan, chief counsel of the commission, said most often these blanket reassessments are ordered because the property is valued too low. 

Nobody on the BOE knew this proposal was coming. Board Chair Christopher Smith ruled if the BOE takes up the plan, it will have to be at a later meeting. “This is not something we’ll be voting on today,” he said.

Late Monday the BOE decided to hold a special meeting on July 18 to take up this plan, according to Smith.

County Executive Frank White seemed cool to the proposal. "State law requires the BOE, like the County Assessor, ensure properties are assessed at their true value," he said in a statement. White has said in the past the current process should move forward.

What was on Monday's agenda was extending the deadline for property owners to formally appeal their assessments to the BOE.

BOE staff said they had directly received 2,600 appeals by close of business Friday. Over the weekend they received some 4,000 emails, presumably many of those with attached appeals.  By lunch Monday, staff said, they had taken 450 appeals in person at the downtown courthouse and in Independence.

The deadline to file an appeal was Monday, but the BOE voted to extend that 21 days to July 29.

But there are still nearly 22,000 informal reviews filed with the county Department of Assessment still in the pipeline. What about those people, wondered BOE member Marilyn Shapiro. “Let’s say it takes two months for somebody’s informal review to be reached. That certainly is beyond the three weeks that we have voted on today.”

So the BOE came up with something it calls a "rolling deadline." Someone would have 21 days to appeal an adverse decision from the assessment department from whenever they receive the decision.

The first problem the county must solve is basic — the assessment department does not put a date on those decisions. County staff promised they could start doing that.

Many at the meeting seemed pleased the BOE at least extended the deadline.

“I’m so glad for this extension because it will give time to get things right. The Board of Equalization has been trying as hard as they can," said Judith Smith from south Kansas City. The assessment on her house increased 425 percent. “People always say how well was something done — not how fast was it done.”

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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