Jackson County legislators have given the county’s Board of Equalization more resources to handle the wave of appeals from this year’s property assessments.
The Legislature on Monday approved spending $561,854 for added staff and overtime costs, including $200,000 for hearing officers. It also raised the pay, for the rest of the year only, of the BOE members and the board’s attorney.
Of the roughly 300,000 commercial and residential properties in the county, about 30,000 property owners have filed for informal appeals, under which the county Assessment Department takes a second look at a property and the assessed value it assigned earlier this year.
A property owner unhappy with that outcome can appeal to the BOE, which is set up to be independent of the Assessment Department. Many of the 30,000 cases are expected to go to the formal appeals process. The BOE chair has said the board will find a way to get through the massive wave of formal appeals.
Preston Smith, who represents the Blue Springs School District on the BOE but is not one of the three permanent members and therefore has no vote, on Monday suggested that county legislators hold off on the added funding. He said that would get the BOE to come to the table and work out a broader solution.
Several weeks ago he said a state statute allows the board to cancel an assessment and pursue an “intercounty equalization order” to set assessments for the entire county. He said this year’s assessments have been done “inaccurately, inconsistently and arbitrarily” – a sentiment many property owners have directed at county officials.
Smith offered a plan:
• Parcels with assessment increases of 200 percent or more would be capped at a 14 percent increase.
• Parcels up 100 to 200 percent would be capped at 13 percent.
• Parcels with increases up to 100 percent would be capped at 12 percent.
The BOE is holding hearings on appeals this Friday at the Truman Courthouse in Independence, but Smith’s proposal again is not on the agenda. At a meeting last month in Independence, the BOE chair, Christopher Smith, said officials still needed more information on Preston Smith’s plan.
So on Monday, Preston Smith suggested legislators hold off on more money for the BOE. He said the 14 percent cap would probably make most of the appeals go away.
“By throwing money at this,” he said, “there’s no incentive for the Board of Equalization to solve this problem.”
Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, said she’s sympathetic to what Smith was saying but that his plan doesn’t seem to have gained much traction.
“And withholding funds is always a slippery slope,” she said.
Legislators unanimously approved the added funding.
Williams said she had spent much of that morning dealing with a constituent, a woman in tears over concern that the assessment on her home will ruin her financially. Many residents have expressed that same fear.
“Because,” Williams said, “she’s never going to be able to sell a house that’s overassessed.”