Jackson County property owners may have more time to appeal their valuations as the reassessment mess in the county rolls on with no solution in sight.
At the urging of a half dozen county legislators, the Board of Equalization (BOE) at its meeting Wednesday decided to consider extending the appeals deadline past Monday, July 8.
“One week probably isn’t enough. If we could go two weeks I would support that,” said legislative Chair Theresa Galvin. Some legislators even suggested extending the deadline another month.
This comes as the county discovered there are vastly more properties that saw an increase in valuation of more than 50%. Jackson County officials previously said there were 2,000 parcels that had a 50 percent hike. But Preston Smith, who represents the Blue Springs School District on the BOE, said his analysis discovered 42,000 parcels that had such a steep increase.
At Wednesday's meeting, the county agreed.
Smith also said the data problems don't stop there. “You’ve got residential parcels that are calculated and charged as commercial assessments. Also, there is a corruption data error in your main database with about 12,000 parcels.”
Assessment Director Gail McCann Beatty promised to look into the problems.
Beatty spent much of her time before the BOE on the hot seat. She defended a reassessment that has seen some property values double or triple and left many urban core residents begging for relief, fearing they will be taxed out of their homes.
“I can’t tell you that this system is perfect. I can’t tell you that we corrected every issue that we have," Beatty said. "What I can tell you is, we will continue to work to correct this and it’s going to take some time.”
One Kansas City resident said she has spent too much time trying to appeal her assessment. Christine Taylor-Butler is a children's book author who said the reassessment mess has cut into her work time. “All I’ve been doing is trying to do my paperwork and help my neighbors do their paperwork,” she said after the BOE meeting at the downtown courthouse.
Butler sued the county Tuesday, claiming her assessment was 30 percent higher than it should be. She also said her informal appeal was denied at the same time an assessor was in her house reexamining the property. She had nothing good to say about Beatty. “I would feel more sympathetic if she stopped talking in soundbites,” Butler said. “Every time we talk to the assessor’s office, there’s an excuse.”
Beatty wasn't the only county employee to come under fire Wednesday. Chief Administrative Officer Edwin Stoll was roundly criticized by legislative chair Galvin for apparently agreeing to cut short a 2015 plan to gradually increase valuations to fair market value to ease the sticker shock thousands of taxpayers are now suffering through. Galvin and other legislators said they didn't know of Stoll's decision and at one point during the meeting, Galvin looked straight at him and simply said, "Shame on you. Shame on you, Ed."
The BOE said it expects to have thousands of formal appeals and asked the county for more staff. County legislators and the county executive's office both said they support for BOE resources. The problem, they admit, is hiring and training enough people to help with the coming onslaught of appeals.