Jackson County officials continue to stress that property owners have until next Monday to file an informal appeal if they think their recent property value assessments are inaccurate.
So far at least 21,000 property owners – of the 300,000 properties countywide – have done so, as many say the county Assessment Department has come up with new values that are far too high and that are likely to raise their taxes. Seniors on fixed incomes have said they are particularly hard hit.
“I want those values correct just like everyone else does,” Assessment Director Gail McCann Beatty said Wednesday at a meeting of the county Board of Equalization.
The county reassesses properties every two years. A homeowner or business owner who thinks the figures are out of line can contract the department for what the county calls an informal review. The person can submit information to give the county a clearer picture of the property’s true value. An example: There’s no record of home improvements because a permit wasn’t taken out.
If that isn’t satisfactory, the person can formally go to the Board of Equalization. Officials stressed that the Assessment Department and Board of Equalization are separate and serve separate functions.
The idea is to give property owners a chance to make their case.
“That’s why we have informal review. That’s why we have the B.O.E,” Beatty said.
The board took no action Wednesday on two suggestions meant to ease things for property owners.
One is to push back the July 8 deadline. County Legislator Scott Burnett suggested a week. Legislator Tony Miller suggested a month. The Assessment Department said the assessments were mailed by the state deadline of June 15, but some people have said they arrived late – leaving them scrambling to find information to make their case to the county.
The board might meet Friday or Monday to reconsider that extension.
Also, Beatty suggested that the board treat all of the informal requests – the 21,000, expected to take weeks to process – as formal requests to the board itself.
Board members, though in public session, took more than 10 minutes to discuss that question privately among themselves – inaudible to the public – before deciding to take no action on that.
Residents have expressed their concerns and anger to county legislators and the office of County Executive Frank White Jr., during this week’s and last week’s legislative meetings. Much of that discussion has come around to the argument that most of these rules – and possible relief for seniors and others – come from the state. The General Assembly would have to change the laws.
“You would get my support on something like that,” County Legislator Dan Tarwater told one resident this week.
But some of that legislation has been offered in Jefferson City.
State Rep. Bill Kidd, R-Independence, has been watching the assessment controversy.
“Oh my gosh,” he said Wednesday. “People are just incensed by this.”
He has unsuccessfully sponsored one of the bills that would address seniors’ concerns. His argument is that many seniors on fixed incomes now have higher tax bills than their old monthly mortgage bills.
“We have people who cannot afford to live in their homes any more,” he said.
His bill would apply to those who are past Social Security retirement age, who have paid of their homes, who have been in the home at least two years and who use it as their primary residence. Those homeowners would get a 20 percent cut in property tax in the first year, then another 20 percent, down to zero in five years. The plan would need statewide voter approval.
He’s offered the bill three years in a row and is ready again for 2020.
Why hasn’t it passed?
Kidd said it’s two things. He’s needed to make changes as he’s gone along, such as accounting for how trusts would be handled. Also, he said, House leadership is young – two key leaders are in their 30s – and haven’t felt the impact of this as many seniors have.