INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) – Attorney Mandy Shell says the Jackson County tax assessment is so uneven that she is filing a class action lawsuit to stop it.

Shell said it’s obvious that errors were made. She also believes low income people and minorities were hit the hardest.

“I’m asking that they reassess all the properties in Jackson county is what I am asking for,” she said. “They have done a horrible job and it’s completely inconsistent and make no sense at all.”

Shell said she’s discovered problems in numerous neighborhoods including West Plaza, Ivanhoe, Hyde Park and the Troost corridor.

“It’s just all over the place. The land values, land is a huge problem,” she explained.

The attorney said she already has signed up more than 200 people for the class action and will argue equal protection violations, as well as violations to the Missouri Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act.

Homeowners point out problems

Homeowner Christine Taylor Butler says the county should be ashamed of the recent assessment. The self-described math nerd decided to help older neighbors fight their assessments and began crunching numbers.

“I’m not sure what the city is doing. But they don’t act like they really care about the tax payers,” Butler said. “They are really all in it for the developers.”

She said she found land values all over the place on the same block, which could be catastrophic for some neighbors.

“We have neighbors that are going to lose their house!” Butler said.

KCTV5 News asked Jackson County Director of Assessment Gail McCann Beatty about the difference in values. She explained that the overall value may be correct but the division between land and house may need to be adjusted.

“We look at the total parcel, and then we have to divide it into the land and the improvement,” McCann Beatty told KCTV5 News. “That doesn’t mean that our overall value is not correct. It does not mean the overall value is incorrect.”

Beatty said she will work with any homeowners who feel values are wrong but added that properties have been undervalued for years, which affects school funding and mental health programs.

Assessment moves forward

Jackson County Executive Frank White said he is not concerned about the quality of the assessment, saying assessments are never perfect.

He points out there are 300,000 parcels in the city and that’s why the review process is important.

“She’s the county assessor,” White said. “I support her. I appointed her. I stand behind her.”

Homeowners at Monday’s county legislative meeting were furious that the assessment will move forward, saying it’s obvious there are problems and now the county is putting the burden on homeowners to find the mistakes.

Many of them pointed out the assessments were marked with the text “THIS IS NOT A BILL” at the top, which could lead to many homeowners not paying attention to the notices that could later turn into crushing tax bills.

Some of the residents gather threatened to pull political support if candidates don’t do more to help them fight bills which have doubled or even tripled.

One homeowner called White out by name, saying the Hispanic community has supported him for years, but now their neighborhoods are being destroyed and they want White to understand tripling their tax bills will be crushing.

Homeowners can appeal

Monday was the deadline for an informal appeal, but homeowners still have time to go before the Board of Equalization.

That will be a panel situation where property owners can bring information if they feel their property value is wrong.

If you have a property tax issue you want KCTV5 News to check out, contact us at investigate@kctv5.com.

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