Jackson County legislators on Monday reiterated their frustration with property tax assessments this year and with the response by the administration of County Executive Frank White Jr. to taxpayer outrage.
Legislators reconsidered and then passed a lengthier version of a resolution they approved calling for the 2019 assessments to be set aside, returning to 2018 levels. White said last week that he has no power to do that, and legislators on Monday conceded the resolution has no binding effect.
“This is the only way that we think we can go back and say we should have done this over,” said Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City.
“Even if it doesn’t communicate anything other than what our sentiments are, it’s a good endeavor,” added Tony Miller, D-Lee’s Summit.
The vote was 7-1. Legislator Charlie Franklin, D-Independence, abstained. Legislator Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, voted no, saying she thought the conversation has created false hope that assessments would be rolled back.
“I wish we could do it, would love to do it, but I think it’s not good policy,” she said.
An estimated 21,000 property owners have appealed sharply higher assessments – hundreds of percent increases in some cases – sent out in June. The Board of Equalization is hearing those appeals one at a time, and officials say that could take into early 2020.
A property owner who gets a higher tax is legally bound to pay it even if the assessment is being appealed. Legislator Scott Burnett, D-Kansas City, said one of his concerns is that even when someone wins on appeal – the BOE is making a lot of reductions, he said – the county won’t cut a check back to that property owner for months.
Legislators also said they’ve heard repeated complaints that people are getting short notice of their BOE appeal time. Burnett said one man went home for lunch and at 1 p.m. looked at his mail to find that his hearing was set for 3 p.m. Another happened to be in the courthouse for jury duty and heard that their hearing was up.
Williams said it underlines how their constituents are bearing the brunt of the assessment problem.
“That’s why this is in front of us today,” she said.
Burnett said BOE hearing officers are working diligently.
“But I still think it’ll be months and months,” he said.
There were moments of levity during Monday’s meeting as well.
Charlie Wheeler was in attendance. He’s a former mayor of Kansas City, a former state legislator and, half a century ago, was the Western District judge on the old County Court that preceded the current charter and the current legislature-executive form of government.
Burnett saw him in the back of the room.
“What are you running for next?” he asked.
Wheeler didn’t miss a beat.
“President,” he said.
The room broke into laughter.