Jackson County officials on Monday got another earful from homeowners upset about increased property value assessments that could drive their taxes higher. Some suggested recalling County Executive Frank White Jr., who has said the county has to put assessments as close to market value as possible and follow state law, with little or no latitude for variance.
“We have elderly on fixed incomes who are going to lose their homes,” said Theresa Galvin, R-Lee’s Summit and chair of the County Legislature.
Legislators on Friday asked White to scrap the 2019 assessment figures and start over, a move White said would be neither legal nor feasible.
“I don’t know if anyone here wants to circumvent the law, but that would be your choice,” he said Monday.
Jerry Roseboro said his family has lived in the Westside area of Kansas City since 1904. Westside residents say gentrification is driving up property values and they fear losing their homes. Roseboro said his taxes are going from $800 to $2,000.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get the money,” he said.
He and others aren’t buying White’s statements that the county is complying with the law and little can be done.
“We’re ready to start a petition to recall Frank White,” he said.
Legislators Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City, jumped in.
“This isn’t the forum for that,” he said. Several people had small “Recall Frank White” signs and raised them briefly, but Galvin ordered them to put the signs away.
White said he has looked “nine ways to Sunday” to find a way around this, but the law is the law.
“But the state statute doesn’t allow us to do it,” he said.
Still, Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, said the county has been in defiance of state law on this issue for decades and asked, rhetorically, what sanctions the state has taken. She acknowledged that property values have been too low but said it’s simply unfair to raise them all at once, especially for those on fixed incomes.
The state does not have laws to limit property tax increases for seniors on fixed incomes, though legislation to do that is introduced periodically, going nowhere in Jefferson City. County officials said they would work with residents who want to press state legislators to change that.
Legislator Tony Miller, D-Lee’s Summit, stressed the need for property owners with concerns to file an appeal with the county by July 8.
“That is your administrative remedy. … Make sure you do that,” Miller said.
The county’s share of property tax bills is only a fraction of the overall bill that a homeowner sees. School districts account for the biggest share, and cities collect a portion too. Libraries and small, specialized funds collect much less.
Chief Administrative Officer Ed Stoll said these other taxing jurisdictions have generated their estimated taxes, property by property, based on figures the county gave them earlier this year.
So, Tarwater asked, does that mean the statements people got in June are close to the final figures? Yes, Stohl said – unless those jurisdictions voluntarily roll back their levies.
Legislators say 21,000 people have already appealed their assessments, meaning the Assessment Department will look at each of those individually.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Stoll said. “We know that.”
He also said it was important not to delay getting the truest figures on the books for another two years.
“It would be for more than we’re talking about today,” he said.
Legislator Ronald Finley, D-Kansas City, was skeptical.
“I wonder about that conclusion,” he said.