Raytown Superintendent Allan Markley believes his school district is losing millions of dollars each year because of low and inaccurate commercial property assessments.
He told 41 Action News the Jackson County Board of Equalization has blocked his efforts to get a hearing and violated Missouri’s Sunshine Law. So, he filed a lawsuit.
“It's not fair to the taxpayers in the school district who send their children to school here and expecting a first-rate education,” said Markley.
The lawsuit lists 23 properties which, based on the certificate of value, sold within the last three years for $53,862,654. The same properties, which included a Raytown Walgreens and Popeyes, were valued by the county’s assessment department in 2015 for $24,263,453. Markley believes these undervalued properties are costing the Raytown School District $400,000 in property tax revenue each year.
“$400,000 would be approximately in the neighborhood of 10 to 14 teachers, it might be additional tutoring programs after school, it could be extra-curricular activities for more kids, whether it be sports or chess club,” he said.
School districts like Raytown depend heavily on property taxes, as do libraries, fire departments and other local agencies.
“We have a district that is 70 percent free and reduced lunch. We have kids that struggle in schools based on where they live and based on what they have been through in their lives,” said Markley. “We have to provide services to make sure that they get everything they need from us on the public education side to make them successful when they walk out of the doors of this school district. And that takes money to do that.”
Markley has been seeking a hearing since last July. His lawsuit filed on Feb. 12 claims the Board of Equalization denied him a hearing and failed to provide agendas for public meetings, which violates the state’s Sunshine Law. On Jan. 21, the board said Markley’s complaint would not be heard because it missed the deadline for addressing 2015 valuations.
41 Action News tried to reach out to the Board of Equalization and its members several times but did not hear back.
According to assessors in Clay and Cass counties, it is not unusual for valuations to be lower than the purchasing price. Bob Huston, Cass County’s assessor, told 41 Action News commercial sales sometimes include inventory and personal property, which would not be included in an assessment.
Ariel Rothfield can be reached at email@example.com.