Kansas City Star, The (MO)
November 3, 2004
MIKE SHERRY for The Kansas City Star
The North Kansas City School District would receive $1.7 million in disputed property tax funds under a recent decision by a state hearing officer.
The decision comes as part of an ongoing dispute between Clay County and Ford Motor Co. over the correct 2002 valuation of the machinery at the company’s Claycomo plant. The company will appeal, said Wayne A. Tenenbaum, the Overland Park attorney who represents Ford.
In her Thursday ruling, hearing officer Aimee L. Smashey found that Ford had agreed with the county on a figure of $306 million in July 2002. Given that finding, Smashey said the company had no standing to appeal to the state tax commission.
In written testimony as part of the case, the Ford official who signed the agreement said she thought the Acceptance of Value Change Form only prevented the company from contesting the value before a county appeals board. That testimony, Smashey wrote, “was not credible.”
Tenenbaum declined to comment on the ruling, saying only that the company will request that the full tax commission review Smashey’s decision. If the company does not agree with the commission ruling, it can appeal the case to Clay County Circuit Court.
Even though the case is still not completely settled, the North Kansas City School District applauded last week’s ruling. “That is great news – fantastic,” said chief financial officer Paul Harrell.
“This is a big victory for ’02 – if it holds up,” agreed Mark Murphy, Clay County’s attorney. “It means a lot of money.”
A win for the county in the 2002 dispute would also mean more funds for other services that rely on property taxes, including libraries and municipalities.
Tenenbaum and Murphy agreed that Smashey’s ruling did not resolve the underlying dispute about the correct 2002 valuation of Ford’s personal property.
Last week’s decision dealt with Ford’s procedure in disputing the county’s 2002 value, and the two sides remain far apart on the correct value of the company’s personal property at that time. The county argued it was worth at least the $306 million included in the disputed 2002 stipulation, but Ford has argued the figure should be as low as $134 million.
Tenenbaum said the underlying issue of the correct value could be resolved as part of the company’s appeal of Smashey’s decision.
Meanwhile, the dispute over the correct value of Ford’s personal property has continued into 2003 and 2004, with the company appealing the county’s figures for both of those years. The two sides also are at odds over the current assessment of Ford’s real estate.