INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Independence is following a neighboring city’s lead in suing Jackson County over property tax assessments.
The Independence City Council voted Thursday in executive session to proceed in filing its own lawsuit against the county.
Jackson County has come under criticism this year after residents saw their property values skyrocket — and then had difficulty filing appeals.
According to the assessor’s office, the average increase this year was 30%, but some owners said their assessments skyrocketed by more than 100%.
But Assessment Director Gail McCann Beatty has previously stated that her department’s role is to place market value on properties, according to state statute, and any property owner that disagrees with that value can appeal.
Independence started discussing a potential lawsuit back in July. Council members approved a resolution that directed the city manager to work with the city counselor and determine if Independence could join an existing class action lawsuit.
At Thursday night’s meeting, after hearing guidance from legal counsel, the Independence City Council voted to file its own lawsuit.
The city expects the lawsuit will be filed within the next week; therefore, documents detailing Independence’s specific allegations against the county are not immediately available.
The Independence City Council released the following statement:
“In the wake of continuous failures by Jackson County officials to correct their inconsistent and unfair processes related to the assessment of real property taxes, the Independence City Council has authorized city staff to retain legal counsel to initiate a lawsuit against Jackson County.
“The Independence City Council did not make this decision lightly but feels litigation has become necessary in order to stand up for the interests of Independence residents and ensure the assessment process is being done in compliance with state law.
“It is the city’s hope that this unfortunate, but necessary action, will finally force Jackson County to do what is right for the City of Independence and its residents.”
Independence is the second city to announce it’s suing Jackson County in one week.
Last Friday, Lee’s Summit also filed a lawsuit, accusing the county of breaking state law in its property assessments.
“For too long the county and its officials have offered one excuse after another for their failure to correctly assess real property,” Lee’s Summit Mayor Bill Baird said in a statement. “People are over or underpaying. The county still won’t get it right, and Lee’s Summit just can’t wait any longer.”
Lee’s Summit leaders said the county increased property assessments beyond the allowable percentage, failed to notify property owners of increases, failed to perform required property inspections and failed to correctly and timely account for new construction.
An Independence attorney has also filed a class action lawsuit against Jackson County leaders on behalf of two local insurance agents.
That lawsuit says Jackson County didn’t send out some residents’ notices on time, calling this year’s property assessments “illegal and unlawful increases.”
Meanwhile, the Missouri State Auditor’s Office is also investigating multiple complaints about the county’s assessments process.
Last month, Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick said his office’s whistleblower hotline has received complaints about significantly higher property assessments, not being able to get through the phone line, and software company Tyler Technology making decisions it might not be qualified to make.