KCK business owner shocked by 582 percent property tax hike

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A business owner in KCK said she couldn't believe her eyes.

She said she opened Wednesday's mail to discover she's being hit with a huge commercial property tax hike, up over 580 percent from last year's bill.

Christina Smith has operated her salvage yard and used car dealership on Pawnee Avenue for 15 years. She said news of the big tax hike caught her by surprise, and if she's forced to pay, her business might have to call it quits.

"I can't even put it together in my head why this would happen," Smith said.

Smith showed FOX 4 her tax statements, and the 582 percent increase from a year ago, which amounts to roughly $10,300 in new taxes. Smith's bill from 2013 had her paying less than $1,900. This year, she's being dinged for over $12,000.

"There's no way I can pay this," Smith said. "I would have to sell my business or some of my real property that I use to run my business."

"It upsets me. I'm a single mom. I try to run my business."

Wyandotte County appraisers told Smith the increase stems from two buildings she constructed on her property in 2011. Smith says she had never been charged for those assets in the past.

"The building we put on there was a $3,200 steel building. How does it increase that much?" Smith asked.

Smith says tax appraisers won't even meet with her to discuss the bill, and the first payment is due three days before Christmas.

Gene Bryan says there's no misunderstanding. The Wyandotte County appraiser says the county didn't know about the added buildings until January 2014, when his staffers spotted them from the air.

"Improvements are going to change the value of the property, and it's usually going to go up," Bryan said. "We try to minimize parcels that are going to go up an exorbitant amount."

"It does make it hard," Smith said. "At this point, I don't know what to do."

Bryant says the big bill shouldn't be a big surprise. He says Smith was sent a notice of appraised value in March notifying her of the jump in property value. At that time, she could have filed an appeal at no cost.

Now, eight months after that point, Kansas law holds that Smith would need to pay half the tax bill in advance before an appeal can be heard.

Smith insists she never received the notice, and she's planning to get an attorney.

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