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County executive, BOE member trade barbs ahead of assessment meeting

Jackson County Legislature.jpeg
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 19:32:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr.’s war of words with the Board of Equalization continued Wednesday ahead of a scheduled meeting Thursday morning.

White, who has been a staunch defender of County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty and her department’s property valuation process, reiterated his belief that a proposal to cap increase for 2019-20 assessments isn’t legal.

Preston Smith, who represents the Blue Springs School District on the Board of Equalization, proposed limiting property valuation increases after more than 22,000 property owners filed informal appeals when the new assessments went out.

[READ: Here’s how to win your property assessment appeal]

Smith said not only does he think the proposal is legal, but that he can demonstrate “gross incompetence” or worse on the County’s part if he’s allowed to give his full presentation when the Board of Equalization meets at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Jackson County Courthouse downtown.

“If I am permitted to make my full presentation before the BOE, I am convinced the evidence will be so compelling that all three (voting) members of the board will vote for my proposal,” Smith said in a statement to 41 Action News. “The information that I present will clearly show that the County not only engaged in gross incompetence but corruption.”

White first decried Smith’s proposal last week despite the intense scrutiny the County has faced as property owners learned their tax bills were set to more than double or triple in some cases.

He called Smith’s proposed caps on valuations “arbitrary” in a statement last week.

Of course, many property owners and even some Jackson County Legislature members have accused the County of an equally arbitrary increases and missed deadlines.

White reiterated his position in a statement Wednesday evening: “The proposal before the BOE is full of legal issues and undermines the Board’s state-mandated duty to ensure properties are assessed at their true market value. The proposal would only create greater unfairness and inequity and property owners need to know that,” he said.

Under Smith's proposal, property owners who saw values increase by more than 200% would see that increase capped at 14%, a much more palatable number for taxpayers facing tax bills set to more than triple next year.

Residents whose property value increased between 100% and 200% would see that valuation increase reduced to 13%.

Finally, those who saw an increase between 12% and 100% would have the increase capped at 12%.

In assailing the proposal, White's office included a letter from County Counselor Bryan O. Covinsky, which detailed potential legal issues with the proposal to cap increases. He summarized those issues in four primary concerns, according to the county's statement:

  • It will unfairly increase some people’s taxes;
  • It will undo significant improvements to establish equity in sales ratios within the County from 2018 to 2019;
  • It will limit appropriate valuation increases for all previously undervalued parcels;
  • It will place an unfair burden on property owners whose parcels were not previously undervalued.

The deadline for formal appeals of valuations to the Board of Equalization was scheduled for July 8, but it was extended three weeks at a meeting last week.

More than 6,000 formal appeals already have been filed, a number that is certain to grow before the new deadline July 29.