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Jackson County legislator: Assessments should have gradually increased

Posted at 6:16 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 22:16:56-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — A Jackson County legislator says she was shocked to discover an earlier plan to gradually increase property values was scrapped.

Chairwoman Theresa Galvin said the legislature was as blindsided as the public when property assessments skyrocketed this year.

Galvin said she didn't learn of the increases until a week before the assessment notices were set to be mailed to residents in early June.

At the legislature’s meeting on Monday, Galvin referenced an October 2017 report from Chief Administrative Officer Ed Stoll that said the administration would bring properties up to accurate market values incrementally through 2021.

Many properties in Jackson County have long been undervalued, which Galvin said she acknowledges.

However, Stoll said because of issues they found in the 2017 reassessment cycle, county officials felt they had to bring values up-to-date this year.

"If we were to wait and have that data updated two years from now, the increase that some people are complaining about would be far worse than it is today," Stoll told legislators in the meeting.

Stoll doubled back, adding, “I said far worse, excuse me. Far more."

The last comment elicited grumbles from the packed room of frustrated Jackson County residents.

"If we had had more time or known about it, we might have been able to help or make some adjustments, but we didn't," Galvin said.

The chairwoman said she hasn't heard what specific issues the administration found in 2017 that caused the plan to be discarded.

41 Action News reached out to Jackson County for answers. A spokesperson said they would look into the questions but had not responded by late Tuesday afternoon.

The county had also signed a contract with Shockey Consulting Services on May 30 — only shortly before assessment notices went out in June — to help the assessment office with public relations and social media announcements.

The county ended the agreement, but it's unclear what type of services, if any, the company helped handle.

Galvin said she thought the agreement with Shockey could have helped to warn residents about the sharp increases, but the contract was signed too late.

"By then, the cat was already out of the bag," Galvin said.

Homeowners across the metro have seen their property assessments dramatically increase this year. Alan Young, who owns a garden at 39th Street and Wayne Avenue in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, said his assessed value went up 2,194% this year.

"I love my peppers, but I don't think they warrant such an increase," he said.

Young said that last Monday, 100 people came into the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center asking for help. Legal Aid representatives were helping elderly neighbors fill out appeal applications.

"The average income of the Ivanhoe neighborhood is $21,000 a year," Young said. "Those people are already doing without a lot."

With the higher property assessments, Young fears Ivanhoe residents will be pushed out of the area, which once saw a high crime rate that has now declined.

"Now that we can feel comfortable to sit out on our front porches and not worry about drive-by shootings, people are worried that the county is going to take their property that they have fought so hard to make livable," Young said.

Some members of the legislature have had conversations with state representatives about how to change the law going forward, such as grandfathering certain properties into increase caps or extending deadlines.

But at this point, it seems there's nothing that can be done for residents, other than encouraging them to file a formal appeal with the Board of Equalization by July 8.

“Basically, the button's already been pushed," Galvin said.

Jackson County said nearly 22,000 residents filed informal appeals. Galvin estimated it will take the county until December to handle them all — long past its deadline.

County Executive Frank White still disagrees with the legislature that errors in the reassessment process exist.

Director of Assessment Gail McCann Beatty is set to explain the process at the Board of Equalization meeting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.