Tensions Simmer as Jackson County Property Taxes Explode
How much of their taxes will the Royals not have to pay? Until recently, that question was the hottest tax policy debate in Jackson County as the baseball team considers their options for a new stadium and the county considers a tax incentive package for them. But for local leaders, the Royals’ tax question may be the least of their public relations headaches.
A property tax assessment completed by Tyler Technologies has caused frustration and concern among several Jackson County residents. The county estimated an average increase of 30%; however, some residents report their assessment increased their property value by 80% or more. (emphasis added)
“The problem was their process,” said real estate agent Stacey Johnson-Cosby. “They picked a company that had problems and other areas that had to be rolled back. And why did we spend $17 million of our taxpayer dollars to put this fiasco on?”
Johnson-Cosby organized workshops to educate residents of the appeals process. She reported 1000 people attended the first scheduled workshop and hundreds were in attendance at both the second and third sessions.
“People are desperate. They’re scared. They’re fearful of being forced from their homes,” Johnson-Cosby said.
What can be done? In the long term, the Missouri Legislature could pass a law to cap the extent to which property taxes can rise in a reassessment cycle. A Jackson County legislator is also suggesting the county set aside the current reassessments and place a 15% cap on increases; whether that will happen is unclear.
But what isn’t unclear is that the situation is boiling over. Earlier this week, County Executive Frank White sent a pointed letter to Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who had been critical of the county’s property tax problems, which of course affect hundreds of thousands of Kansas Citians. Along with telling Lucas that he doesn’t understand the law surrounding property taxes, White also called Lucas out for living in what the executive described as a “white neighborhood” that would disproportionately benefit from limits to property tax increases.
White’s letter is worth calling out here for a few reasons.
- White says the county can’t do what Lucas is demanding, including halting reassessments entirely;
- White is saying Lucas is being self-serving for his own taxes, aggressively asserting that his home is the benefit of a sort of privilege; and,
- These are the same two guys in charge of Jackson County and Kansas City’s push to keep the Royals in the jurisdiction.
That this conversation is happening as the debate on the Royals’ tax incentive package reaches its final stage is, perhaps, karma. Government has no business giving away tax revenues to professional sports teams, especially while it’s lifting taxpayers by the ankles and shaking the change out of their pockets. Kansas City and Jackson County need to get back to basics.