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Taxpayers are in limbo as Jackson County postpones property assessment appeal hearings

A row of wood-frame, multi-story houses line a neighborhood street. Large trees can be seen around the edges of the photo.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Wood-frame homes in Santa Fe Place line Lockridge Street in the historic Kansas City neighborhood.

The announcement that hearings will be pushed to an indefinite time comes days after an audit slammed the assessment process and after a lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General.

Jackson County’s Board of Equalization has postponed its appeal hearings indefinitely.

Beginning on Dec. 20, homeowners who had a scheduled appeal hearing with the board were notified they had been postponed, with no clear timeline to resume.

The decision to halt appeal hearings follows a week of chaos for the Board of Equalization and months of frustration from homeowners who saw their property assessments skyrocket. Thousands have disputed their reassessments by filing appeals with the Board of Equalization.

Jackson County did not respond to a request for comment.

Lowell Krofft is an Independence homeowner who saw his assessment increase by 101%. After an informal appeal earlier this year, officials said they could lower Kroftt’s assessment down to about 54%.

Still feeling that was too high, Krofft appealed to the Board of Equalization. He had his hearing earlier this week, just days before the agency decided to postpone its proceedings. The board agreed with the findings of the informal hearing.

Unsatisfied, Krofft said he plans to appeal to the Missouri State Tax Commission.

“It's really pissed me off,” he said. “I was not happy with the reassessment two years ago, and I was not happy with the reassessment two years before that.”

Krofft said he successfully appealed the previous two property assessments, lowering his property value to an amount he felt comfortable with. That didn't work this year.

“To me, it just feels totally wrong,” Krofft said.

Earlier this week, a scathing preliminary report from the Missouri State Auditor’s office called the reassessment process in Jackson County “flawed and inadequate.”

State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick said the report found deficiencies and non-compliance with state law, adding that as many as 200,000 Jackson County taxpayers were “victims of an assessment process that violated state statute and trampled on their rights.”

Fitzpatrick said the county should invalidate all reassessments in which a property’s assessed value increased by more than 15%.

The next day, Republican Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey sued Jackson County and the county legislature, the Board of Equalization, county executive Frank White and county assessor Gail McCann Beatty over the tax assessment process.

The lawsuit alleges the process was unlawful and that the county engaged in systemic failures, including “failing to provide proper notice and inspections under the law, to coercing property owners to drop their appeals.”

The county said in a statement that it would defend the lawsuit.

In another assessment case, the Missouri Supreme Court dismissed a class-action lawsuit from Jackson County taxpayers who sued the county, arguing that they had not properly exhausted other options, like appeals, before filing the case.

Jackson County is embroiled in other cases involving the much-contested assessment process. In September, Lee’s Summit and Independence sued the county under allegations that White and McCann Beatty failed and refused “their clear and unconditional duty to assess real property taxes in Jackson County in the way required by Missouri law.” The case will have a hearing Jan. 5.

In July, the Missouri State Tax Commission ruled against Jackson County in an assessment dispute with the former owners of the Country Club Plaza, arguing that 20 properties in the shopping district were overvalued by 38%. If the ruling is upheld, taxing districts like Kansas City Public Schools would be forced to refund the Plaza owners millions of dollars.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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