The Jackson County Board of Equalization today extended the deadline for property owners to appeal their 2019 assessments.

The board, meeting in Independence this morning, voted 3-0 after minimal discussion to set a deadline of Sept. 3. The board had previously extended the deadline twice, most recently to Monday.

Assessment notices with an estimate of possible overall taxes for county, school, city, fire and library services went out in June, and many people have complained sharply that their home and business assessed valuations have gone up far too much.

There are just under 300,000 properties in the county, and about 30,000 property owners have asked the county Assessment Department for an informal review – that is, a chance to present information and ask for a second, closer look.

Of those, about 10,000 have appealed to the Board of Equalization, which is independent of the Assessment Department. It holds what amounts to a short hearing for each case – it had dozens of Eastern Jackson County cases on the agenda today – and then votes to lower the assessment, raise it or leave it the same.

After that, a property owner who is still unsatisfied can appeal to the State Tax Commission. That deadline is Sept. 30.

Another wrinkle is that some property owners have already taken this to court, and BOE Chair Christopher R. Smith said it’s unclear how the board would proceed if and when court decisions are made. He said the board was giving property owners to the option of delaying their cases to see how that plays out.

The BOE also has another issue to take up at some point. Preston Smith, a non-voting member of the board who represents the Blue Springs School District, has roundly criticized the 2019 assessment as both arbitrary and as targeting poorer areas of Kansas City. He has proposed capping this year’s assessment increases across the board.

Chairman Smith said the BOE is still gathering information on that plan and has not yet decided when to vote on it.

Hancock relief?

County legislators say their offices have been deluged with calls about assessments, and they have said many of their constituents fear being taxed out of their homes. On Monday, they heard from an expert on Missouri’s Hancock Amendment, which limits tax increases.

Sid Douglas of the law firm Gilmore & Bell stressed to legislators that the Hancock Amendment limits overall tax rates but does not apply case by case, property by property. The amendment is part of the Missouri Constitution, approved by voters in 1980.

Caleb Clifford, chief of staff for County Executive Frank White Jr., said his quick calculation – and he underlined that it’s just that – is that the county is looking at rolling back its levy by around 15 percent. That’s because the Hancock Amendment doesn’t allow local governments to reap a windfall when property values rise sharply. Essentially, local governments get to cover inflation and the their tax bases grow with new construction.

Schools – which by far account for the biggest portion of an individual’s property tax bill – as well as cities, fire districts and other local governments are looking at much the same math.

But that doesn’t mean every property is looking at minimal increases. If the assessed valuation of a home is up by double or triple – and many residents have said that’s happened to them – a 15 percent cut in the levy only offsets that higher value to a limited extent.

“The Hancock Amendment is just a limitation on the actual rates that are imposed,” not a limitation on individual tax bills, Douglas told legislators.

The statements that went out with assessments have an estimated tax bill, and that’s the number that has upset so many people.

“Right now, all they’ve got is an estimate,” Douglas said.

Still, that figure is based on the county’s best calculation of taxes owed assuming local jurisdictions to the rollbacks they are obliged to adopt.

Legislator Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City, highlighted that point.

“So it may,” he said, “end up being their bill.”