Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jackson County Assessment Appeals Process

By Mary Wilson
Last week, Jackson County Director of Assessment Curtis Koons, along with staff members, spoke to the audience of a special meeting coordinated by the Southern Communities Coalition to answer questions in regards to the assessment notices received within the last few weeks by those living within county limits. Every two years, the county is mandated to perform assessments to its personal properties (homes and businesses) and real estate properties (commercial).
According to Koons, because of the size of Jackson County, the assessors measure and update one-third of the county every two years. Each property is appraised, and then the assessed value is nineteen percent of that appraised value. The result of this process is to set the assessed valuation of property in Jackson County. Such assessed valuation and levies set by Jackson County and other tax authorities, like cities and school districts, are used to calculate the property taxes that fund those taxing authorities.

“We’ve had a lot of funding cuts from the state, but we’ve still tried to maintain that plan,” said Koons. “This particular reassessment cycle, we’ve done a large chunk of the Kansas City School District, and all of Center School District. We did Grandview School District, then what I call the Hickman/Ruskin combo.”

Other areas saw inconsistencies in assessment values, but the bulk of the conflicts were in South Kansas City and Grandview. According to Koons, 18,000 parcels of this reassessment group of 70,000 were incorrect.

“It didn’t seem to make sense,” said Koons. “It’s my fault that we rolled these values out when we did. We’re short staffed and on a time frame, but ultimately it falls on me to identify that there is a problem and try to figure out what the problem is and that’s the stage we’re at right now.”

The comparable houses that were used in the southern part of Jackson County were low, and the office was not receiving much, if anything, with which to compare the property values.

“We’re taking a second look at these,” said Koons. “Some of you probably got a letter from us saying we’re taking a second look. A bulk of them we sent out were to people who were above a fifteen percent increase.”

Koons said that the values in certain neighborhoods can still be changed, as it is still fairly early in the process. Homeowners have until June 14 to file an informal appeal, either online or over the phone.

“If these issues start coming up and we can identify what the problem is,” said Koons, “and if you still don’t agree, the most important thing is you have to have your appeal process. We can’t cut you short on an appeal process at all.”

If you don’t agree, Koons encourages homeowners to file an appeal by calling (816) 881-4601 during regular business hours or by filing such an informal appeal online at Those homeowners who received the letter stating that their properties were being reassessed will then have thirty days to file an appeal of that value as well.

The appeal process includes divulging information that the assessors would not be able to see from the curb, such as foundation issues or a refinance appraisal.
“Those things are helpful to us to really help you get to the bottom line of where you really need to be, and what’s fair,” said Koons. “We want to be fair and equitable this entire process.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Carpenter's Plan to Tackle Hickman Mills Issues

By Mary Wilson
New Hickman Mills Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter had the opportunity to introduce himself to members of the Southern Communities Coalition on Wednesday, May 15. Carpenter provided his personal and professional background to the group, and provided that he is a seventeen-year educator from Georgia.
“I’ve been fortunate,” said Carpenter, “in holding every position from substitute to para-professional to teacher to assistant principal to principal to assistant superintendent to associate superintendent to deputy superintendent, and now your superintendent.”
He worked in a district that met a lot of challenges and were not meeting Georgia State requirements, similar to
Hickman Mills. After implementing some innovative things in the district, Carpenter was happy to point out that the
school turned around. Carpenter then answered the question regarding what motivated him to make the move to South Kansas City.
Carpenter was involved in two national searches, and came across the opening in Hickman Mills.
“I looked at it and I started Google searching to see what was going on in that district,” said Carpenter. “There was a lot going on.”
He found articles online in regards to students and violence, provisional accreditation, teacher cuts and more.
“In a strange kind of way, I started to try and figure out how the community was dealing with or handling those issues,” said Carpenter. “I said, I think I can offer that district some help.”
Carpenter then went through the interview process that was outlined by the firm that conducted
the search, and also went through a comprehensive process with Hickman Mills school board members.
“I did hear some things about not having a community piece,” said Carpenter, “and I’m accustomed to a community piece. I’m just a candidate; I don’t get to put the process together. With that being said, what was done was done very thorough.”
He then spoke on the school district’s and community’s greatest challenges, from his standpoint.
“School board aside, we’ve got issues related to crime,” said Carpenter. “I can’t fix that totally as superintendent. I won’t pretend to say I can.”
Carpenter said there are issues in regards to economic development, which he does have a stake in improving as superintendent, by preparing students to be productive in their work settings.
“We have a major student achievement issue,” said Carpenter. “We were talking about basic and below basic for such large percentages of our kids. If our kids are going to compete nationally and/or globally, basic or below basic will not get it.”
Having some experience with those issues, Carpenter feels confident in the district dealing with that piece. Carpenter said that to get to the root of any problem, five questions need to be asked.
“Those questions are: why? Give me that first answer. Why? Give me that second answer. Why? Give me that answer. Why? Give me that answer. And why,” said Carpenter. “After five why’s, you can probably get to the root cause of any problem that you’re trying to deal with.”
This is the approach that Carpenter plans to take in dealing with the problems facing the Hickman Mills district. He has started to ask those “why” questions and has received answers along the lines of teachers needing the strategies to teach the children, behavior in the classroom, and attendance issues, especially in the upper grades.
“If you just say we’re going to start throwing dollars or throwing resources at an academic issue and not delve down into the root cause of the issue,” said Carpenter, “you’ll be throwing dollars into what Grandma used to call a bottomless pit.”
The strategy Carpenter is recommending to the school board going forward includes a comprehensive one-year plan to tackle the major issues, and then develop a five-year plan based on what priorities the district has after that initial year.
“I’m going to argue that we’re going to put together a plan that is so comprehensive the state of Missouri might back off and say, let’s give Dr. Carpenter and that school board a chance,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter said he has seen success with this type of model for school improvement.
“This works,” Carpenter said. “Chaos, yelling about the problem, does not work. The challenge is to get all of our folks elevated to the point where leaders are leading.”

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Bay Waterpark Wins Cornerstone Award

By Mary Wilson
This week at the annual Cornerstone Awards of the Economic Development Corporation, awards for projects that contribute to Kansas City’s economic strength and vitality were given, and The Bay waterpark was nominated in the public area and won.
The award, present to the Kansas City Parks Department, was given on Monday, May 13. John Sharp, 6th District Councilman, shared with the South Kansas City Alliance at their meeting.
“I wanted to share this tonight specifically with Vanessa (Claborn-Welch) and Stacey (Johnson-Cosby) because it was PIAC funds that helped develop The Bay,” said Sharp. “Now we’ve got the award for the top project in all of Kansas City, as far as public projects adding to the economic development of the city.”
The Bay has already received an award by The Pitch newspaper as the best public pool in the metro. Sharp also said that with the development in that area, it will lead to announcements soon of the redevelopment of the grocery store in Longview Square.
“I guarantee there wasn’t any interest in doing that until we opened the waterpark and made improvements along
Longview Road,” said Sharp.
South KC Alliance members sent emails to all of Missouri’s general assembly in regards to their support of the Land Assemblage Tax Credit that would have helped jumpstart the redevelopment of Bannister Mall. While not supportive of the program, Governor Jay Nixon offered other things that the state could do to help with the redevelopment.
“I told our legislators when I was down there last week that if there are other things we can do, let’s do them,” said Sharp. “This thing’s been sitting here for years. If you’ve got some other tools, let’s use them.”
Last week, an agreement was reached with the principles of the redevelopment group that intends to redevelop Bannister Mall, and Governor Nixon has agreed to provide $10 million more in assistance from the Missouri Development Finance Board for the Bannister Mall redevelopment in return for not pushing the Land Assemblage
Tax Credit laws.
“We don’t really care where the aide comes from,” said Sharp. “We just want the assistance and we want to see bulldozers and see things coming up out of the ground. But believe me, we would not have gotten that additional assistance if we hadn’t had strong support for that legislation that the governor wasn’t wild about. The fact that he thought it could pass was what brought him to the table, in my opinion.”
According to Sharp, the developers felt confident that in a short time, residents of that area will see action at Bannister Mall.
Also at the meeting, Michael Patillo, the Kansas City Land Bank Operations Manager, answered some questions regarding the Land Bank procedures and the effect it will have on South Kansas City blighted properties.
The next regular meeting for the South Kansas City Alliance will be on Monday, June 10. Time and location information will be available in the Advocate closer to the meeting date.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Google Fiber Coming to Grandview

By Paul Thompson

Like a healthy diet, a healthy internet connection in Kansas City has become synonymous with fiber. Now, Google’s lauded high-speed fiber network is coming to Grandview.
The city of Grandview will get their taste of the Google Fiber’s one gigabyte connection speeds now that it has officially signed an agreement to become Missouri’s second city to receive the new service. The city held a special 6:45 p.m. meeting of the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, May 7, where the board finalized the agreement to bring Google Fiber to Grandview.
Grandview Mayor Steve Dennis said that talks with Google progressed rapidly over the past several months.
“They gave us a call probably three, four months ago,” said Dennis. “It’s progressed very quickly in the last two months with Cory, and Dennis, and myself.”
Grandview joins Kansas City (Missouri and Kansas), Olathe, Shawnee, and Raytown in announcing their imminent inclusion in Google’s high-speed internet network.
“Raytown announced last Friday, but they do not have an approved agreement yet,” said Grandview city administrator Cory Smith. “We now have our agreement approved before they do.”
Just as in Google’s Kansas City launch of their fiber internet services last year, Grandview will be split up into “fiber-hoods” that will decide which areas of the city will get the service first. Grandview officials are looking forward to working with Google to drum up support for the service among city residents.
“We want to work with them on that,” said Smith. “Their public relations person has already contacted ours. I’m sure they have some ideas about how to get the word out.”
Grandview makes a strong fit for Google Fiber, not only because it is surrounded by Kansas City, but also because the area of the city is relatively small compared to some of the other municipalities in the region.
“We told them upfront that we are fairly small, but dense,” said Smith. “They don’t have a whole lot of area to work with. They can have most of the city completed in fairly short order.”
Smith expects that Google Fiber will serve as an ideal marketing tool as Grandview continues to work on their next stage of redevelopment.
“It makes us look like a pretty progressive, high-tech area,” Smith said. “Google will put us on the map in another way.”
Mayor Dennis knows that the presence of Google Fiber could be a major boon for Grandview.
“I am incredibly thrilled for the city, because this gives us opportunities that we didn’t have before,” Dennis said. “I think everybody should be excited. We’ve got a lot of opportunities in the city of Grandview, but this is certainly a big one.”

Friday, May 3, 2013

Aldermen Approve Two Ordinances for Truman's Marketplace

By Paul Thompson
The Grandview Board of Aldermen passed two ordinances at their brief regular session last week, and both related to Truman’s Marketplace.
The first ordinance passed was an agreement with Springsted Incorporated of Kansas City, Missouri. The ordinance authorizes the city to contract financial services to Springsted at the cost of $175 per hour, to be paid from the Economic Development fund. The company has served as the financial advisor for what was the Truman Corners shopping center since 2011, conducting cash flow and project feasibility analysis along with several other services during the redevelopment bid process at Truman Corners.
The contract passed last week continues the city’s relationship with Springsted throughout the redevelopment process.
Since the TIF project at Truman Corners was approved, bid winner RED Legacy has been marketing Truman’s Marketplace and working to purchase properties within the TIF district. They anticipate that the first series of bonds will be sold in June 2013, and Springsted will help select an underwriter for the bond issue.
The next ordinance authorized the execution of a service agreement with Real Estate Research Consultants, who will be preparing tax revenue estimates for the city’s TIF district at the re-named Truman’s Marketplace.
RERC is set to be paid $49,950 for their services, in addition to associated expenses not to exceed $1,850. RERC has an extensive track record in the Kansas City area, and the city felt comfortable enough with the accuracy of prior forecasts to choose the company over four other bidders.
RERC has worked with Springsted before, and the two companies will now be working together to make Truman’s Marketplace as successful a venture as possible.
-In other news, Candy Miller and Bill Coe were both named to posts at the Parks and Recreation Commission during the open session. The pair will both be serving five year terms, set to expire on April 30, 2018.
-In the consent agenda, the board authorized the purchase of a new infrared streetpatching device. The trailer-mounted, 30-square-foot infrared device will come out of the $120,000 budget the Public Works Department receives for the acquisition and replacement of equipment. Public Works director Dennis Randolph told the board that the new equipment was the best way to patch holes in the street quickly, and that the work would be built to last. The device cost the city some $29,000, and is being shipped from R. Filion Manufacturing in Claremont, New Hampshire.