April 15th, 2012
Karen Dillon

    There’s a reason why veteran Kansas City Star investigative reporter Karen Dillon has won a slew of awards during her journalism career, the last 20 with the McClatchy-owned paper.
    And the University of Missouri graduate just might win some more trophies with her blockbuster front-page story (4/15) in the Star dealing with the dirty little secret of developers in Johnson County who classify their land as agricultural to avoid paying millions of dollars taxes. (Shane Keyser was the photographer.)
    She starts her article with the lede “You could call it the Wal-Mart farm.” She then explains how Walmart owns 20 acres of prime land where it once planned to open a store. The store never opened but the mega-corporation paid a paltry $53 in taxes in 2011 for the land. It normally would have cost thousands of dollars in taxes if it wasn’t labeled as farm land.
   Dillon points out numerous examples where corporations and developers simply classify the land they own as agricultural and pay virtually no property taxes despite not growing a thing on it.  A vacant lot in a development with a normal appraised value of $62,000 might cause a normal person $800 in taxes.  If classified as agricultural the appraised values  plummets to $10-$20 per year with taxes dropped to a ridiculous 35 cents.
   This is the kind of story that will very likely reverberate in government circles and force these individuals and corporations to pay their fair share.
    It also will likely mean some more well-deserved awards for Dillon, the KC Press Club’s 2010 “Journalist of the Year.”

8 Responses

  1. radioman kc says:

    Sorry, but I don’t see this as a blockbuster at all. This tactic of leaving agricultural land agricultural until development happens, isn’t a surprise at all. Who wouldn’t? And I doubt state legislatures will change it. The paper to print this story will be used to wrap fish in.

  2. Rich says:

    Glad to hear she’s been doing real journalistic work and focusing her attention on Johnson County. It’s about time for her annual hatchet-job article trashing the Lake of the Ozarks. She does one every year, legitimate or not, and seems to have it in for the place.

  3. I’m sorry, but this article is 1,992 ‘much ado about nothing’ words concerning a non-scandal.

    At the article’s core is the notion that somehow govt. is ‘entitled’ to as many tax dollars as possible because it has superior wisdom concerning the public’s money.

    The Kansas Court of Tax Appeals and the Kansas Court of Appeals correctly said different: “The landowner’s intention for the property didn’t matter. Neither did his motivations for establishing agricultural use. “

    The KEY to this conclusion is that the law should apply equally to all, and not have different applications simply because Wal-Mart is involved.


    Enough already, Miss Dillon.

  4. Rick Nichols says:

    I don’t know that this particular story will cause things to change in Topeka and Jefferson City since the politicians there are largely in the hip pockets of Corporate America and seem to like it that way, but I do appreciate the effort on the reporter’s part. Yes, the day will soon come when radioman will use the Sunday paper to wrap his fish in, perhaps even fish that he catches at the Lake of the Ozarks. But I have to wonder about the health of the fish hooked at Rich’s Lake of the Ozarks, especially in light of recent attempts by some to cover up findings of excessive bacteria levels at the lake, attempts, I might add, that were brought to the public’s attention by The Star.

  5. Goose says:

    Everything in this article is pretty much true, but using Judith Rodgers as a source, really makes this article lose value.

  6. John Altevogt says:

    Let’s see, the Star gladly makes a stink about taxpayers who may not be paying enough, but ignores, indeed, flees from stories and evidence that the counties are dramatically over appraising residential properties in order to keep their budgets stable.

    In addition, where’s the story exposing the biased, anti-taxpayer methods used by appraisers and the kangaroo Court of tax Appeals to consistently over evaluate most properties?

    This simply reinforces The Star’s reputation as a big government, anti-taxpayer shill.

  7. Altewhattian? says:

    John, everything you submit on the Internet reinforces your nutjob reputation as someone whose irrational “handmaidens of corruption” opinion of The Star keeps us all mightily amused.

  8. Steve Porter says:

    John, if you think this is groundbreaking news, I’ve got a headline for you: Dewey Captures Manilla, Defeats Truman (get it late, get it wrong).

    This story was done – more thoroughly and after months of research – by The Olathe Daily News in late 1996. A week after the ODN ran a story package on this, Chris Ketz covered it for KMBC 9 and omitted any credit to the newspaper. It was then covered by Eric Palmer in the spring of 1997, again with the same facts, the same players that the ODN interviewed, and of course, no hat tip to the original generator of the story.

    Oh, and by the way, at the time the cost estimate for this agricultureal deferment was a loss to the county of about $6 million. Maybe not a lot, but if you divide it by each Johnson County taxpayer, then ask them if it was fair they were paying more taxes to make up for the difference, I think you have the answer.

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