KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Homeowners in the Kansas City School District are bracing themselves for a big increase in their tax bills after the school board decided on Wednesday to keep all of the money from an increase in Jackson County property values.
Property owners face an average increase of 23 percent in their school taxes for 2020.
Because of the surge in property values following Jackson County's reappraisal, Kansas City Public Schools now are projected to collect nearly $7 million more than the school board anticipated receiving when members planned the district's budget for next year.
However, instead of giving that money back to homeowners by reducing its tax rate, the board unanimously voted to use all of the extra money to add 10 more pre-K classrooms and spend about $4 million on capital projects.
"Ultimately, if there is anger, know that it should be directed at the county executive and the encouragement of our county legislators to stand up and make things happen at the county level," said Manny Abarca, school board treasurer. "There’s no one on the board who disagrees with the fact that the assessment process is wrong."
Abarca said public schools need to make up for tax reductions during the recession of 2008. He said schools currently face about $450 million in deferred maintenance.
That didn't convince members of a Jackson County taxpayer reform group, who say refusing to rollback tax rates makes the school district just as guilty as the county for the big bills that are coming.
"They had a chance to do something," Charles O. Lona, a leader of the Jackson County Taxpayer Revolt and Reform Movement, said. "They could have done something and they didn’t. They chose to be just like Jackson County: Unresponsive."
Abarca said rolling back the windfall to match the schools' budget would have reduced taxes on a $100,000 home by less than $40.
About half of the school taxes collected go to charter schools in Kansas City. And they also pushed for the school board to hold the line on its levy.