Tax official: Minorities, low-income property owners targeted for higher increases

Bill Grady
July 19, 2019 - 7:51 am

KMBC Channel 9 News

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Jackson County property tax assessments are under fire, and an investigation into possible racial and economic discrimination may be launched.

The request comes from Preston Smith, a Board of Equalization member from Blue Springs.  He's a data consultant. Smith has developed a color-coded chart that provides evidence for his assertion that minority and low-income property owners are being singled out for higher valuations than taxpayers in affluent areas.

Smith said he found about 74,000 properties, almost a third of the county, that were assessed at 14.9 percent above their previous tax levels. At 15 percent state law requires a physical inspection. The targeted areas were gerrymandered, Smith believes.  

In an exclusive interview with KMBZ, Smith said he wants a full-scale probe.

"I sent the investigation request to the state tax commission," Smith said. "They're the main body in the state of Missouri that overrules or looks at assessments and does certification for each county in the state."

Smith also says today, he's turning his findings over to the state auditors office, and thinks if the allegations prove true, the county is in for some big legal problems.

At yesterday's BOE meeting, Smith proposed capping the assessments to a 14 percent increase, but that was tabled. 

"I gave my very best shot for the people, because that's what it's all been about for me from the get-go to try to get these taxation levels leveled out, and be more fair," Smith said.

Smith has no idea when the board might revisit his proposal, but for the most part, thinks it's dead in the water.

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