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Jackson County assessment increases would be capped under board’s proposal

Deadline to file appeal extended to July 29
Posted at 1:12 PM, Jul 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 16:06:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County property owners who saw their assessments increase drastically this year have more time to file a formal appeal and may yet get significant relief under a new proposal from a member of the county’s Board of Equalization.

At a special meeting Monday, the board discussed a proposal from Preston Smith, who represents Blue Springs School District, that would cap increases for 2019-20 at no more than 14% for residents who saw the largest increases in recent assessments.

The Board of Equalization also voted to extend Monday's scheduled deadline for formal appeals until July 29. Anyone who has already received a denial to their informal appeal will also have until July 29 to file a formal appeal with the BOE.

Those who have yet to receive denial notices, which are still being sent in the mail, will have three weeks from the date they received the denial to file a formal appeal.

Under Smith's proposal, those who had their property values increase by more than 200% would now see an increase of 14%. Residents whose property increased between 100% and 200% would have their increases set at 13%. And those who saw an increase between 12% and 100% would see a 12% increase.

Properties that increased in value by less than 12% would remain unchanged under the proposal.

The board did not vote on the proposal Monday because it was not on the initial agenda, but Smith told 41 Action News later Monday afternoon that a hearing about his proposal was scheduled for 9 a.m. on July 18.

Smith said he spoke with a state tax official who believes the proposal is legal and within the Board of Equalization's authority.

"Based on conversations with Maureen Monaghan, Chief Counsel for the State Tax Commission, the Board of Equalization can approve an Intercounty Equalization Order to set a percentage decrease for all parcels in the County," Smith wrote in an email.

The Board of Equalization has the power to halt any erroneous or improper assessment under state law, adjusting values up or down as needed.

"According to Monaghan, this Intercounty Equalization Order has been used several times across the state, usually to increase values across a County that a BOE believes that an Assessor has not increased the values enough," Smith wrote. "She says it has rarely been used to decrease values."

Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr., who has been a staunch defender of County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty, pushed back against Smith's proposal, which he deemed "arbitrary."

“The County remains committed to ensuring that the assessment process is both fair and accurate," White said in a statement Monday evening. "The proposal discussed at today's Board of Equalization's (BOE) meeting proposes to set arbitrary caps on valuation increases, regardless of the property's true value. However, state law requires the BOE, like the County Assessor, ensure properties are assessed at their true value.”

White's office also released a copy of an email from Monaghan to Beatty in which she reiterated that "BOEs may engage in intra-county equalization" — the process described in Smith's plan — under state law in attempting to assess true value.

Monaghan also noted that "BOE members take an oath to fairly and impartially equalize the valuation of all real estate and tangible personal property."

"Since I do not have market information regarding real estate valuation in Jackson County, I could not opine on the merits of (Smith's) plan other than to reiterate that the BOE may engage in equalization to establish true value," Monaghan wrote.

Franny Knight, a real estate agent in Kansas City, started a temporary Facebook group to help people with appeals.

Knight told 41 Action News she's doing free comparisons for property owners and "some of the houses that I was doing the comps on, there were no updates. They bought the house. They've just been living in it and going from $60,000 to $200,000, $100,000 to $250,000, was really hard to see. I just didn't understand that."

During the last week, Knight has run reports on comprable sales for close to 50 property owners and demand isn't slowing down. She's providing the free service, because "I'm afraid that people are not going to be able to pay their taxes and lose their homes."

More than 21,000 Jackson County residents filed informal appeals in the wake of this year’s dramatic property assessment increases. County Executive Frank White has defended the process, blaming sharp spikes on property values being undervalued for decades.