KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County announced Tuesday that nearly $562,000 will be appropriated to the Board of Equalization as it continues to navigate the fallout from a controversial property assessment process.
The county will use $561,854 from the 2019 Assessment Fund to bump up Board of Equalization members’ pay and set aside money to hire additional staff, including the possibility of adding hearing officers.
Instead of $1,500 a month, the three permanent Board of Equalization members will be paid $4,000 from September through December. Permanent members are paid $3,000 in July and August.
Per meeting pay for other board members will be bumped up from $150 to $250 and the BOE’s legal counsel, Ronald Jurgeson, will receive an extra $17,500.
Money also could be used to hire hearing officers, who would meet with property owners and hear their case then decide whether to forward it on to the BOE. The county has not determined if it will hire hearing officers nor who they'd be or where they’d come from.
The Board of Equalization has received at least 10,000 appeals, while the Jacksno County Assessor’s Office received nearly 22,000 informal appeals after thousands of property owners reacted to skyrocketing assessment.
“I only have two places I would move to, the graveyard or the nursing home,” Blanche Thomas said.
Thomas, 89, moved into her house on 34th Street in 1956. She says she was the first black person on the block and now hers is the only house left.
“I love my house," Thomas said. "It's not out south on the Plaza nowhere, but I feel like it's the prettiest house in the Kansas City area."
She worries the increased property assessment will force her and many other elderly homeowners on fixed incomes out of their homes.
Community groups and civic leaders continue to meet with worried homeowners and offer assistance with the appeals process. The original deadline to appeal was July 8, but the BOE has granted two extensions.
The new deadline is Sept. 3.
Newly elected Third District KCMO City Councilman Brandon Ellington held a news conference Tuesday along with community members to announce a series of workshops to help people fill out their appeals.
"I'm irritated mostly because, even though this isn't an independent racial issue, you'll see marginalized communities are overly affected," Ellington said.
Ellington calls on the Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. to freeze the assessment process altogether, which the county charter gives White the ability to do so if the assessed values are found to be inaccurate.
"I pulled together a coalition of real estate agents to use their own time and energy and access to the MLS to basically do the job the county didn't do," Stacy Johnson-Cosby, a real estate agent who calls the county's assessment process "obviously flawed," said.
Johnson-Cosby was on the Board of Equalization in 2013, when the county went through a similar process and found valuations were incorrect.
"At that time the county executive stopped the process," Johnson-Cosby said. "In fact, the assessor lost their job. This is not new to the county. Why weren't lessons learned when they didn't have it right?"
Anyone who still needs help filing your appeal, may want to consider attending an upcoming workshop: