INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A Fortune 500 company’s error on its taxes could end up costing the Independence School District more than $1 million.
A large portion of school district funding comes from property taxes, paid by both homeowners and businesses.
But in January of this year Jackson County refunded Unilever $1.4 million after the consumer goods company said it discovered it failed to exempt some of its eligible property on its 2017 and 2018 taxes.
“We did not find out about this in the Independence School District until July of 2021,” Dr. Dale Herl, Independence School District Superintendent, said.
According to a motion for injunction filed by the school district and Mid Continent Library Jackson County notified each in October it would start “clawing back” the tax payments this month it had already issued them. For Independence School District that’s $1.2 million the county plans to withhold over the next 3 years.
Court filings call the harm to the school district “enormous.”
“As far as doing anything right now, there’s nothing we can do. That money has already been appropriated, we have contracts with staff, we’re educating kids, it has an impact I can’t diminish at all. This is a substantial disruption to the Independence School District,” Herl said.
Independence’s superintendent argues under state statute Jackson County should have never refunded the company the money, since it didn’t file it’s taxes under protest.
“I think at the very minimum the Independence School District should have been notified prior to the county issuing the money back to Unilever. Even with that we don’t believe the county has standing in which to send the money back to Unilever.”
Jackson County said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation. FOX4 called Unilever’s local and corporate offices for comment about the apparent tax mix-up but was not able to speak to anyone.
A hearing on the request for temporary injunction of withholding payments is set before a judge Friday afternoon.