Jackson County homeowners record assessment department, turn over recordings to KCTV5

More than 54,000 people filed a property tax appeal with the Jackson County Assessment...
More than 54,000 people filed a property tax appeal with the Jackson County Assessment Department.(KCTV5)
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 1:01 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 21, 2023 at 1:31 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - “How did the county come up with the values it’s assessing?”

It’s a question thousands of Jackson County taxpayers are asking.

Assessors often use “comps” — determining the value of one property by comparing it with a similar property in the neighborhood.

But some homeowners say the properties used for comparisons are not similar. They are 8-9 miles away. Homeowners say their houses are being compared to lakefront properties and even a home with a helipad.

And they have audio recordings of the county admitting it. The homeowners shared the recordings with our investigative team.

Homeowner #1

KCTV5 agreed not to use the names of the homeowners we spoke with for this report because they are still fighting with the county over their assessments.

The first homeowner saw his property value jump from $250,000 to $670,000. He appealed.

While the homeowner believes he has a nice home, it is not nearly as spectacular as the property it was compared to.

He recorded his meeting with the Jackson County Assessment Department and pointed out that one of the comps used was “really high.”

“This is what they have,” he told the assessor. “They have an FAA-registered helicopter landing pad. We don’t have that.”

Jackson County homeowners tell KCTV5 their houses are being compared to similarly-sized homes...
Jackson County homeowners tell KCTV5 their houses are being compared to similarly-sized homes but there is no accounting what else may be on properties.(KCTV5)

He went on: “An airplane hanger, in-ground swimming pool, three-car (garage). We don’t have any of that.”

The representative says he’s familiar with that property used in the comp, and politely agrees that it’s not a good comparison.

The representative tells the homeowner that he’s familiar with that property because “exact five comps have been used on hundreds of properties that are in the same neighborhood code.”

That means that the same property was used to help value hundreds of other properties.

Homeowner #2

Another homeowner, Martha, brought us her audio recordings of a meeting with the Assessment Department.

She did her homework for her appeal — filing a Sunshine Request for Information regarding her assessment.

“We’ve got to unveil the truth,” she told us. “The whole process is flawed.”

She learned the comparable homes used for her assessment were eight to nine miles away, and included lakefront property.

“I don’t have a lake in my backyard, I don’t have a dock with boats, I was appalled,” Martha told us.

She asked about it in her appeal meeting:

“Can you tell me what the comps that were used?” she asked the representative.

ALSO READ: KC mayor calls Jackson County’s property assessment a ‘crisis,’ questions the long-term implications

The representative gives her the addresses.

“Okay, so I’m confused as to how that is,” she said to the representative. “On the sunshine records it’s all different properties.”

“If the data changed in the system, it will pull new comps,” replied the representative.

“When would that happen?” Martha asked.

“Sometime between when they sent you that and now, the comps must have changed,” was the answer.

“I don’t know how they can go in and change the game,” Martha told us.

Martha suspects the county is trying to cover up a sloppy assessment. She believes the county cleans up the information and finds better comps to defend the value.

Martha asks the representative another key question about the state-required physical inspections.

“So, when was that done?” she asked the representative. “What was the date and time?”

“I couldn’t tell you,” he answered. “Most likely 2022. I don’t have the dates for when those were done.”

Jackson County’s Magic Number

Hundreds of other homeowners are questioning whether physical inspections were done.

We reported on a very common appraisal for the county — $356,270. More than 500 homes in Jackson County were assessed at that value. The homes are in various parts of the county and are of various shapes and sizes.

We sent multiple crews to have a look at some of the homes. Most were modest homes, recently purchased for $100,000-$150,000. One property assessed for that amount was a vacant lot recently purchased for $25,000.

When you look at the homes, the assessment for that group went up 168.3%.

Seeking help for homeowners

Jackson County Legislator Sean Smith is among those troubled by the recent assessment.

“It’s definitely got some problems from beginning to end,” said Smith. “Switching the comps around is definitely a problem.”

Smith is troubled by what appears to be a lack of documented physical inspections as required by state law, and the overall values generated by the out-of-state, third-party company overseeing the assessment, Tyler Technologies.

That company was late on many deadlines, meaning little could be double-checked.

“We needed to make a really hard decision. And that decision, I think, needed to be, ‘We’re not ready with this big project,’” said Smith.

ALSO READ: Jackson County property tax appeals top 54k, assessor defends assessment

KCTV5 sent several emails and text messages to Jackson County requesting an in-person interview with Assessment Director, Gail McCann Beatty.

The information was clearly received by the county. One text message reads “Followed up with the team. I’ll be in touch.” But no one ever responded about the information we were seeking.

County Executive Frank White has steadfastly defended County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty, and she, in turn, has defended Tyler Technologies.

“Was it perfect? No, it was never going to be,” McCann Beatty said previously. “Mass appraisal is not a perfect system. We are working through any challenges that we have.”

But some believe the problem is just too big. More than 54,000 homeowners have filed appeals. Many others probably could win but for whatever reason didn’t appeal.

Sean Smith is advocating for the Board of Equalization to recommend a 15% cap on all property increases across the county.

Others are also still working to solve the problem. The Jackson County Legislature may decide to authorize an audit by the Missouri State Auditor, and a class action lawsuit heads to court at the end of this week.

ALSO READ: Missouri State Auditor investigating complaints over Jackson County assessment process

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