Jackson County executive points to state laws concerning large tax assessments

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The state sets the rules.

Jackson County Executive Frank White said he’s merely enforcing the laws concerning property tax assessment, which have seen attention-getting hikes in recent months.

White said his hands are tied when it comes to this issue.

Thousands of Jackson County homeowners have complained about the unforeseen increases, which, in some cases, have resulted in tax assessments being doubled in value for the coming year.

The county assessor’s office has received more than 20,000 complaints concerning the increases, which threaten to force some homeowners to leave their homes and property.

The Jackson County Courthouse had many of those unhappy homeowners in attendance on Monday, some of whom carried small black and white signs reading “recall Frank White.”

“With this dramatic increase in assessment, I know people are unhappy. I know some people are upset,” White said during Monday’s Jackson County Legislature meeting. “This is all about property values and the economy and new builds that are going on in our community, and that drives home values up.”

On Friday, Jackson County legislators called for White’s office to throw out property assessments that stirred up this controversy.

Some homeowners in attendance on Monday, as well as members of the county legislature, demanded that if White was forcing a state law, that he should be required to produce that law for examination.

“I feel bad for the elderly folks who are having a hard time with their homes. I have some of them in my family,” White said.

Some angry voices that attended Monday’s meeting hail from metro districts unaccustomed to seeing tax increases, such as Kansas City’s Westside and the Ivanhoe neighborhood. Longtime residents from those areas expressed their fears that they’re being forced out.

“This tax increase is going to hurt the neighborhood,” Alan Young, who makes his home in the Ivanhoe district, told the legislative body.

“I worry that people won’t be able to afford to live in Kansas City, Missouri,” said Ronald Finley, Jackson County 2nd District legislator.

“Our property is prime location because it’s close to Crossroads, Sprint Center, Crown Center. I think what they want to do is to get us out of there,” said Ed Valdivia, a west side resident.

“A lot of us would like to see the state law. They’re not the only ones who can interpret the laws,” said Arthur Johnson, who makes his home in the Ivanhoe area. “I’m retired. I’m on a fixed income. How it’s going to affect me is to delay paying some bills. Hopefully, they’re not delayed too long to where I get collection notices and so forth.”

White said he plans to allow the process to unfold, and perhaps, the next series of assessments will be lower.

White also said he’d be fine if state legislators from Jefferson City were to get involved in this contentious situation.

“I’m concerned how were the assessments done? What is the procedure for assessing homes? They didn’t use is obviously,” Alice Gomez, a longtime KCMO westsider, added.

The Jackson County assessor’s office will present its next step Wednesday at 10 a.m. White said he expects leaders from that office to discuss how properties are appraised. The meeting is open to the public.

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