JACKSON COUNTY, MO (KCTV) – New analysis of data by the KCTV5 News investigative team has uncovered shocking new details into just who is being targeted by extreme property assessments in Jackson County.
Property tax assessments throughout the county have skyrocketed, with many homeowners claiming the valuations don’t reflect what their homes are actually worth.
Many of these residents have even said they are concerned that a spiking tax bill could end up costing them their homes.
A number of the people hit the hardest with higher property taxes in the latest assessment are the poor, and residents who are black or Spanish-speaking were likely to get absolutely nailed with an increase.
Data expert and Board of Equalization member Preston Smith worked with KCTV5 News to integrate all sorts of information and data bases.
Working with Smith, KCTV5 News searched for properties in the county where the tax assessment increased 14.9%.
Why such a specific target? Missouri state law requires a physical inspection if any property increases in value above 15%.
While Jackson County assessment officials have argued they can physically inspect pictures rather than going on-sight, KCTV5 News wanted to see if appraisers wanted to hedge their bets.
Looking at the numbers, it seems that 14.9% mark is a favorite for assessors, since that level of increase in property assessments was hit 74,311 times in this last survey.
That figure represents 28% of all residential properties covered in the assessment.
While maps show how widespread the clustering of 14.9% valuations are, there are areas of the county where the assessments seem to go much higher.
A nearly 50-square-mile block of properties on the east side of the county can almost be perfectly outlined based on major roadways.
Follow the line along Independence Avenue-24 Highway, then turn east and head down Blue Ridge Cutoff, swing along Interstate 435 to the Grandview Triangle, then follow 85th Street to the south and come up Troost is to the west.
In that part of the county, many of the assessments jumped much higher than the 14.9% mark. In the map below, the dense yellow markings indicate properties where valuations increased by more than 50%, with much of that part of the county seeing the large jumps.
"Yeah, I figure that we saw 200% up to 1000% all in the same room westside area,” westside homeowner Richard Hernandez said. “How that happens we don’t know. Something is wrong there.”
There’s hardly any 14.9% in that 50-square-mile section.
The implications are hard to ignore. Demographically this means black people, Hispanics and poor people across Jackson County are twice as likely to have seen the higher increases because the favorite 14.9% assessment increase was concentrated elsewhere.
“That seems result oriented and seemed inappropriate,” lawyer and homeowner Gregg Lombardi. “Assessments shouldn’t be done on a results-oriented basis. Assessments should be done by looking at what are the tangible factors that go into a value of a house. There shouldn’t be a 15% cap, so we go as high up as we can and then go into low income neighborhoods and 200-300%.”
Kansas City native and relator George Medina said he has never seen this kind of debacle in the assessment process.
“I’m a Kansas City native. Some of this is embarrassing. I mean, this is a total mess,” Medina told KCTV5 News. “They need to start over. I shake my head. I can’t believe this.”
Westside homeowner Paul Rojas agrees, adding that there is one person who can correct these mistakes.
“The ball is in Frank White’s court,” Rojas said. “All of Jackson County is looking at him. Go ahead and grab it. This would be the biggest Golden Glove he ever had.”
The Jackson County Executive is actually doubling down, though, saying he opposes any compromises to cap values and that he is standing by this controversial assessment.
On Wednesday, White released a statement saying he opposes a proposal scheduled to be considered by the Board of Equalization Thursday that White claims would set “arbitrary caps” on assessment increases, regardless of the true value of the properties being assessed.
“The proposal before the BOE is full of legal issues and undermines the Board’s state-mandated duty to ensure properties are assessed at their true market value,” White said in the release. “The proposal would only create greater unfairness and inequity and property owners need to know that.”
White’s office also released a memo that was sent to the Board of Equalization that detailed the legal challenges they see with the proposal.
KCTV5 News contacted the county to ask if they could explain how assessors kept hitting the 14.9% increase over and over 74,000 times, and only in certain sections of the county. County officials have not provided a response to that inquiry.