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City, Jackson County officials react to judge’s ruling on assessment issues

Ruling marks second legal victory for Jackson County assessor
tax assessments
Posted at 5:57 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-27 18:57:26-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Monday, a judge denied a request from Blue Springs and Independence, Missouri, to intervene in the 2023 Jackson County assessment process.

The ruling means there will be no retroactive change in property assessments or tax bills. A record number of property owners filed appeals in 2023.

The assessor’s office sets a value on every property in the county every other year. Jurisdictions use those values to set property tax rates.

Cass County Judge Derek Spencer agreed with Blue Springs and Independence on several claims.

He wrote Assessor Gail McCann Beatty and Executive Frank White, Jr. showed “gross incompetence” in disregarding the budget process.

But the judge said a deadline for the assessor’s office and board of equalization to complete appeals is not legally mandatory, so he could not act on the matter.

In a statement Monday, a Jackson County spokesperson thanked the judge for upholding the law, but argued his view that the county did anything incorrectly during the assessment process is wrong.

“Jackson County is dedicated to a fair taxation system that reflects accuracy and justice. We stand firm in our mission to ensure that all property valuations are equitable, allowing no resident to pay more than their fair share. The court's comments, though critical, do not detract from our commitment to uphold these principles for every resident,” part of the statement read.

The cities of Blue Springs and Independence also responded to the judge’s ruling with a joint statement thanking the judge for acknowledging “the county's failure to process appeals timely.”

The statement went on to say in part, “We respect the court's decision and are committed to working with the state legislature, the State Tax Commission, and all relevant parties to address the issues identified. The Cities remain dedicated to ensuring fair and accurate property assessments for our residents and will explore all options to support our communities' needs."

Monday’s ruling is the second legal victory for the assessor’s office.

In December 2023, the Missouri Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit from several property owners who argued the county failed to properly inform them about increases in their assessed value.

The city of Lee’s Summit and the Missouri Attorney General’s office both have pending lawsuits against the assessor’s office. Both are scheduled for hearings in March.

Spencer, based in Cass County, took the case after all Jackson County judges recused themselves over a potential conflict of interest since they own property in the county and are affected by assessments.

The Missouri State Auditor’s office continues to work on an audit of the 2023 assessment process in Jackson County. A spokesperson said a final audit is months away.

Last year, the office released a preliminary report.

It revelaed the county may have improperly notified up to 200,000 property owners about their rights following increases in their assessed values.

Jackson County is the only county in Missouri to appoint its assessor.

Monday, the county legislature introduced a proposal to have voters elect an assessor. Resolution 21553 will now work its way through the legislative process.