Property tax ‘mistake’ is ignored by Jackson County
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - There’s no question that this year’s Jackson County property tax assessment has left a lot of people shaking their heads.
More than 54,000 people appealed, and many more are finding that they should have.
KCTV5 Investigates has been reporting on a particular assessment value that got the attention of outside data experts--$356,270.
More than 500 Jackson County property owners were given the exact same property value. These are properties of different shapes and sizes, and from different areas of the county.
It’s clear that mistakes were made — everyone makes them — but many are questioning Jackson County’s handling of it.
For starters, the county has yet to admit it’s a mistake and won’t discuss it. But homeowners will.
Amanda Barron is one of the homeowners whose property was assessed at $356,270. She found out when KCTV5 alerted her to it in a phone call a couple of weeks ago.
“Oh, my Lord,” said Barron. “I only bought the home for $120,000.”
Amanda missed the notice because she is currently working on an oil rig in Texas. After talking with us, she jumped in her car at her first opportunity and drove overnight from Midland, Texas to Kansas City — stopping only to grab two short naps on the way.
“I just want to get it resolved,” said Barron. “I just want to know where I stand.”
Barron went straight to the Board of Equalization to appeal her case in person. She missed the informal deadline to appeal. She’s hoping to get a hardship extension.
She says there is “absolutely no way” that the home is worth $356,270. And there is no way she can pay the extra taxes.
Barron gave KCTV5 a tour of the home. It’s cute — about 800 square feet. But it needs work. Windows need to be replaced, and updates need to be made.’
As we met with some of the 500 homeowners whose property was valued at $356,270, we learned they all had something in common. They all bought their homes in December. That’s also when Barron bought her home.
Public records reveal those property owners who challenge the $356,270 assessment win by hundreds of thousands of dollars. But about half of the owners hitting that magic number did not appeal. Some even told us they thought the assessment letters were some sort of scam because the values were so outrageous.
KCTV5 talked with two property owners assessed with $356,270 who own empty lots. One appealed. The value was adjusted down to $9,100.
The other was confused by the notice. She recently paid $25,000 for her empty lot in Independence. She’s hoping the county will address the mistake even though she missed the deadline.
Experts weigh in
Data expert Preston Smith first brought the $356,270 issue to our attention.
“I mean, this was a thing that I picked up on about three or four hours of looking at it,” said Smith. “This is not hard to do.”
But the county doesn’t admit there is an error, so there is no overall solution. When questioned by KCTV5, County Administrator Troy Schulte brushed it off as the “opinion” of one data expert, meaning Smith.
But we talked with another data expert.
Marlene Jeffers is an appraisal expert with 40 years of experience. She has a history with the county. Decades ago, Jackson County bought technology her company developed for appraisals.
Jeffers believes the $356,270 assessments are clearly a mistake that should have been caught earlier.
“How is it that Preston can find that, but the people who are paid to do this sort of thing didn’t?” Jeffers asked.
Jeffers questions the lack of quality control and wonders why numerous people didn’t check the data before assessments were sent out.
She says she has never seen a mistake like this and that this example raises a bigger concern about all the values homeowners received.
“You’re just going to find a mistake everywhere,” said Jeffers. “It’s so systemic that the errors, it can’t be one. It can’t be one algorithm. It can’t be one upload. It’s just huge.”
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