State Rep. Rory Rowland, D-Independence, briefly introduced legislation to deal with Jackson County’s property assessment controversy during this week’s special session of the Missouri General Assembly.
He acknowledged that his proposals were outside the scope of the immediate tax issue legislators were debating, so he made his point and then withdrew his proposals. He said he will “absolutely” be back with both ideas when the General Assembly convenes in January.
“Jackson County needs to do the right thing. We also in this body need to do the right thing,” he said on the floor of the Missouri House.
Rowland offered two ideas:
• In any county where 10,000 people appeal their property assessments, the assessment overall would be suspended. The county says more than 21,000 have appealed the assessments sent out in June.
• A property owner with an assessment increase of 27.5 percent or more would not have to pay the resulting higher taxes until appeals are exhausted. Rowland called that a “stay of execution.”
“One of the biggest tax issues that we have in this state is the assessment problem in Jackson County,” Rowland said in the House. “… Right now in Jackson County, we have citizens who are hotter than a hornets nest hit by a baseball bat. We’ve had assessments go up by over 400 percent. They have had over 20,000 appeals. Half of those appeals have not been settled.”
He said a recent town hall meeting that he and Rep. Robert Sauls, D-Independence, held showed that people are concerned and confused.
“The tax assessments in Jackson County,” Rowland said, “have created chaos for the taxpayers, for the levy districts and for our citizens and our constituents. It impacts seniors on a fixed income. We’re going to have people who have their escrow accounts already adjusted because of the assessment. However, their appeals have not gone through the process, so their assessed valuation is in fact the taxes they’re going to pay next year. We have people that have 100, 200, 300, 400 percent increases, and it is impacting them significantly.”
He said state legislators need to step in.
“We do not need to have Jackson County tax its citizens at those kinds of rates,” he said, “and then not have an appeal process that is completed by the time their taxes are due.”