Jackson County legislators on Friday urged County Executive Frank White Jr. to start over again with property assessments – a move White immediately rejected.

“They’re asking me to break the law … I’m just following the statute,” White said.

Thousands of property owners have informally appealed their new assessments, which were sent out this month. A review of those will take all summer, the county assessor said this week. People are upset that their property values are up sharply and that, potentially, their tax bills could jump as well.

White stressed that it’s still early in the process, but he also said legislators are trying to show him up.

“This is another I-gotcha moment when they’re trying to embarrass the executive,” he said.

In their letter, legislators said more than 21,000 homeowners have started the county’s informal review process for their properties. July 8 is the deadline to file an appeal with the county Board of Equalization.

Legislators said the new assessments are likely to hit thousands of people unfairly.

“It’s become clear there are numerous grave errors in the 2019 reassessment values recently sent to the citizens of Jackson County,” they wrote. “We respectfully request those reassessments be discarded, and you provide a resolution to this situation.”

White said that cannot happen.

“You can’t start over. You can’t do it,” he said.

He added, “They want to skirt the law all the time.”

Several residents of the Westside area of Kansas City loudly registered their concerns at this week’s Legislature meeting, though officials stress this is a countywide issue.

“And I agree with their concerns,” White said. “Everybody has their concerns at heart.”

Local governments – the county, cities, school districts, the library system – use the assessments on homes and businesses to figure tax bills. The Hancock Amendment, part of the Missouri Constitution, is supposed blunt sharp increases. Also, local governments can adjust their levies to offset increases.

“I think when the levies are set, things will change,” White said. “I don’t know how they’ll change.”

White has been the county executive for a little more than three years and said he’s spent most of that time trying to clean up longstanding messes that the Legislature hasn’t addressed or in some cases created.

In their letter, legislators wrote, “Some properties have been undervalued for years and we recognize that.”

White went further, saying it’s a longstanding problem.

“They have approved everything that’s gotten us to this point,” he said.

Legislators pointed out that Director of Assessment Gail McCann Beatty was named by White, but White said legislators have the power to step in when he appoints someone they think isn’t right for the job.

He said the assessor’s job, by state law, is to arrive as closely as possible at a property’s actual market value.

“Gail’s doing her job. I support her 100 percent,” White said.