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Spikes In Property Values Have Jackson County Homeowners Scared To Open Their Tax Bills

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Hyde Park resident Christine Taylor-Butler said she worries house flipping in the area is causing market values to spike. Taylor-Butler said her house is a rehab project that will take years to fix.

When Christine Taylor-Butler opened her property tax assessment Friday, she was shocked to see the value of her Hyde Park home had been raised by $250,000, which is up around 70 percent.

"If someone writes me a check for $600,000, I will sell right now," Taylor-Butler laughed.

But, she said, her home, which she describes as a rehab house, is nowhere near worth that kind of money. 

Taylor-Butler isn't the only Jackson County homeowner with sticker shock.

Jackson County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty said about one-third of the county's properties saw "significant" spikes in their valuations this year. On the whole, she said residential properties are looking at an 18 percent increase in value. 

"The market has significantly increased. That is just a fact," she said.

McCann Beatty said the valuations are determined by a computer-assisted model, which is based on factors like number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and sales in the area.

She said many of the homes that are seeing a big increase in market value were undervalued for reasons she can't explain, because she only came on as county assessor in 2017. 

In 2017, there were 5,000 appeals filed; McCann Beatty said she expects even more this year. As of Monday, she said her office had already received 1,000.

"I still contend that this is a small group of residents," she said. "I don't want to sound like I'm not sensitive to taxpayers, because I get it. Everybody is struggling and they're trying to figure out how to make ends meet. And I understand that."

But, she said, she has to meet state-wide statutes, which require that she meet market value, otherwise Jackson County will lose funding for reassessment. 

In 2013, Jackson County officials had to revisit nearly 20,000 valuations after acknowledging that they might not be accurate. Former Assessor Curtis Koons resigned after taking responsibility for "significant data issues," according to the Kansas City Star.

Taylor-Butler said she remembers that.

"They did not have any boots on the ground. They weren't actually looking at the homes. I'm pretty sure that's the case again," she said.

Waldo homeowner Brian Crilly is looking at a market value increase of 70 percent.

"You're telling me over the course of one year, my house went up by $50,000 in market value? I didn't do anything to it," Crilly said. "It seems so arbitrary. I mean, we don't have a basement. The house floods every time it rains."

His estimated property tax also stands to go up 70 percent. 

But, McCann Beatty emphasized, the tax is an estimate, which is one of the reasons she is encouraging home owners "not to panic."

She said taxing jurisdictions often lower their levies based on market value, so homeowners won't know that exact tax until the end of the year. 

Taxpayers have until June 24 to submit an appeal online through the Assessor's website. They can also appeal to the local Board of Equalization, by July 8, and the Missouri State Tax Commission.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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