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Tuesday, May. 07, 2013

Property reassessments hitting some Jackson County homeowners hard

The Kansas City Star

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Jessica Ratcliff figured her family’s home was worth more than it was listed for on the tax rolls. But five times more?

That’s what Jackson County contends as Ratcliff and other property owners this week began receiving assessment notices. For some of those who had received a visit from the assessor’s office, the results were jaw-dropping.

“No way is it worth that much,” Ratcliff said of her three-bedroom house, which the county says is worth $229,000. It was on the rolls for $48,000 in 2012.

The Ratcliffs aren’t alone in feeling stung. Their next-door neighbor, Mary Jones, saw her valuation double, and so it has gone across a large swath of Kansas City, as well as pockets of Lee’s Summit, Grandview and Blue Springs.

By the end of the week, roughly 70,000 homeowners will have learned whether the county assessor’s office felt the need to increase, decrease or hold steady the market value of their houses for tax purposes, said county spokesman Jeph Burroughs-Scanlon.

Roughly the same number got the bad or good news during the last reassessment cycle in 2011, while another 70,000 will be reassessed in 2015.

The three-stage program begun under County Executive Mike Sanders is meant to bring taxable values in line with market realities after more than a decade in which taxable values weren’t adjusted at all.

Those changes can be jarring, especially when the assessor has a more inflated view of your home than you do. But very few property owners saw huge increases, Burroughs-Scanlon said.

Overall, residential property values are up 2.9 percent and commercial properties are up 4.72 percent on average.

About 2,600 residential property owners saw increases of more than 50 percent, he said.

But double-digit increases were far from rare.

County legislator Scott Burnett, whose district includes much of the area being reassessed, said he’s heard from a couple of dozen upset taxpayers so far and expects to hear from more, if 2013 is anything like 2011.

He questions the accuracy of some of the valuations and is advising his constituents to file an appeal if they feel there are inaccuracies.

“Often times they’ll work it out on the phone,” he said, but added that taxpayers must come armed with data, such as sales prices for comparable houses on their block or nearby.

Informal appeals can be filed until June 14 by calling 816-881-4601 or online at jacksongov.org/appeal.

For those not satisfied with the outcome, then formal appeals before the Board of Equalization Formal can be filed through July 8.

In 2011, the areas reassessed were within the Independence and Raytown school districts, as well as areas east of Troost Avenue. About 52 percent of those properties saw increased values, 32 percent went down and 16 percent stayed the same.

The breakdown for the 2013 reassessment was similar: 56 percent went up, 40 percent and the rest stayed the same.

The area seeing the biggest increases included large sections of Kansas City south of the Missouri River, including area like Brookside, Waldo and Coleman-Highlands, where some residents were organizing to protest the increases.

As for the Ratcliffs, they’re worried about paying the taxes on their house in the 3800 block of Terrace Street. It’s worth perhaps $145,000, she said, or roughly three times what it was valued at in 2012.

“It’s obvious it needed to be reassessed,” she said.

But unless she and her husband, James, are successful in their tax appeal, they’re not sure how they’ll come up with $3,500 to pay their taxes when last year the bill was $700.

“That would be 12 percent of our household income,” she said. “We can’t afford it.”

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738, or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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