KANSAS CITY, Mo. - If you own a car, you pay annual property taxes. Part of what you pay goes to your local schools. But what if you discovered your dollars went to the wrong school district?
It happened in one south Kansas City neighborhood near 127th and Wornall. During a recent gab session, neighbors uncovered a problem.
"I said, 'wait a minute, let me go in and get mine,'" said Dina Giesler, recalling the conversation about vehicle property tax bills. Neighbors discovered their tax bills contained a mistake.
For example, Dina Giesler is correctly billed in the Grandview School District. But Bruce Greenbaum is billed for Center schools. Giesler and Greenbaum live together in the same house.
"That's when I went, 'why is this wrong?'" Giesler said.
"She's paying into the Grandview school district, and I found out I'm still paying into the Center school district, which I had been paying into for many, many, many years," Greenbaum added. "I said, 'you know this just doesn't sound right.'"
Greenbaum tried to correct the mistake by calling the Jackson County Tax Collection office. He said he left several messages, but did not get a call back. He even went to the Grandview office in person but said a supervisor told him the bill was actually correct.
"I figure hey, Call for Action, maybe they can get something done. That's when I decided I'm going to call Call For Action," Greenbaum said.
The error can cost a taxpayer extra money. One of Bruce and Dina's neighbors noticed the same error with her car tax bill and got it corrected. It went from $291.60 to the Center School District down to $257.85 to Grandview -- a difference of $33.75.
41 Action News counted four homes in the neighborhood with billing errors.
"I don't think it's that common," said Ed Stoll, the Jackson County tax collection director.
Stoll doesn't know exactly how many taxpayers may receive vehicle tax bills for the wrong school district. His office does not track these types of errors electronically.
Clerks working with the public report any errors to their supervisor. If they get multiple complaints, Stoll is notified.
"If so that is an issue that is brought to our attention and we investigate that," Stoll said.
Stoll thinks the problem lies with the personal property declaration forms mailed out to thousands of Jackson County vehicle owners.
At the top, you are asked to make any mailing address changes. But right underneath that, in the fine print, you are asked to check your correct physical address. That address determines the school district where a taxpayer will be taxed.
"I think the declaration form is not clear," Giesler said.
After bringing this to his attention, Stoll said his office will review the form and consider changing it to make it easier to understand. And a recent news release urged people to "Carefully review their declaration forms for any changes or corrections to be made, including the owner's Jackson County street address listed for the property. That street address determines where tax dollars are distributed."
That is welcomed news to Greenbaum.
"The most important thing above all is making sure the proper school districts get the money that they deserve for the kids," he said.
If a taxpayer discovers a billing mistake, how can they get it corrected or get a refund?
"They would need to file a claim for refund. They can do that in person, by mail or they can call," Stoll said.
Taxpayers can call 816-881-1330 and discuss with one of the clerks.
Errors for the four property owners have been corrected.