By Kathy Feist
Residents weren’t the only Jackson County property owners reeling from a large increase in property reassessments. In Martin City, local business owners were livid after seeing a sharp increase in property values.
“Our property saw a 500 percent increase,” says Curtis Stroud, owner of Rosehill Gardens, a longstanding Martin City business. The four-acre commercial property shot up from $400,000 to $2.6 million in property value which translates to $19,000 to $85,000 in property taxes.
“I promise you, if someone came and offered me $2.6 million for this property, I would be out of here in an hour, trucks and all,” says Stroud.
Stroud says three years ago the property was appraised for $1 million. Since then Rosehill Gardens has created an event space on the property. But he says there is “no way in hell” the property is now worth $2.6 million.
Rosehill Gardens wasn’t the only business to be snagged. RC’s Restaurant and Lounge doubled in value. Volleyball Beach experienced a 100 percent increase. Some businesses, such as Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse, had no complaints.
For Rosehill Gardens and RC’s, the rates were reduced thanks to Martin City Community Improvement Manager Vickie Wolgast who brought it to Jackson County Rep. Dan Tarwater’s attention.
“I appreciate [the county] making the change,” says Stroud. “But I’m concerned with how many people are going to pay because they did not have the help or were not paying attention. Who’s watching out for them?”
Those who are paying attention now have until Monday, July 8, to file an official appeal to the Jackson County Board of Equalization. Already close to 22,000 informal appeals have been filed.
On Wednesday, July 3, at 10 am, in the Jackson County Legislature Chambers, 415 E. 12th St., the Board of Equalization (BOE) will hear from County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty and County Executor Frank White on how the properties were appraised and whether there should be another extension for appeals. The BOE is an independent Board composed of citizen taxpayers of Jackson County. The meeting is open to the public.
At a weekly Legislature meeting held Monday, July 1, the chamber was filled with unhappy taxpayers, some demanding White’s recall. They are not the only ones unhappy with the process.
The Jackson County Legislature issued a statement June 28, stating “It’s our responsibility to advocate for our constituents, the same constituents the county executive represents. It has been grossly unfair to require our constituents to wage this battle on their own, when we can all see how seriously flawed the process has been.”
The legislature is asking White to admit that errors were made in the reassessment values. “The massive swings in home and land values, often on the same block, cause us to distrust the process used in valuation, especially after reading media reports of a county whistleblower discounting the process,” it states.
The whistleblower reported by KCTV claims the County Assessor did not use full MLS data to determine property values because their subscription to the service ran out nine months ago. MLS is used by real estate agents and appraisers to determine property values. Subscription cost is $2000. County Assessor Beatty says because membership requirements disqualified them from using the service. Instead the county appraisers used different data.
If property owners do not appeal their 2019 assessment, they will not have another opportunity to do so until 2021. Which is why the legislature would like to see White admit to errors being made. By issuing such a statement to the BOE, the deadline for appeals would be extended.
But White does not appear to be backing down.
Addressing the Legislature’s statement, White retaliated, “Members of the Jackson County Legislature requested that I discard all of the 2019 assessment values and freeze those values at last year’s level. I will absolutely not do so.”
While the Legislature’s statement does not request a freeze, White makes it clear in his statement he does not intend to admit an error, and to do so would be breaking the law.
But according to County Rep.Tarwater, deadline extensions have happened before in Jackson County.
In 2013, the deadline was extended to July 22 after homeowners protested an unusually high increase in property values. Then County Assessor Curtis Koons handed in his resignation to Executor Mike Sanders because of a “flawed formula.” Around 60,000 affected homeowners received a new round of assessment notices in their mailboxes.
The key to an extension for the assessor to review 22,000 appeals, plus anymore filed by midnight July 8, lies in what the BOE decides at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The process is tight,” says Maureen Monoghan, Chief Counsel at the Missouri State Tax Commission. She is unimpressed with the number of appeals in Jackson County. “St. Louis County usually has 35,000 that must be reviewed by their BOE.”
After the BOE renders a decision on each property, the taxpayer has 30 days, or September 30th depending on which comes first, to file an appeal to the State Tax Commission, explains Monoghan. The form to appeal can be found on their website at www.stc.mo.gov. It must be submitted along with the property owner’s BOE decision.