What one neighborhood reveals about Jackson County assessment inspections

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 4:04 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:18 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - One of the biggest questions hanging over the assessment is whether proper physical inspections took place.

They are required if the assessed value went up by more than 15 percent—that’s according to Missouri state law, and Jackson County code. And those laws clarify it can’t be a “drive by.”

Through weeks of investigation, KCTV5 has learned that computer programs used by assessors can reveal the amount of time spent at a property, but there is another way to get that information—through the county’s own photos.

An Independence homeowner contacted KCTV5 Investigates after checking neighborhood properties using the Jackson County Parcel Viewer. She found photos taken by county employees as proof they went to the properties.

When you look closely at the photos, you can see a timestamp in the fine print at the bottom of the photo.

Timestamps could be seen in the fine print of photos from the Jackson County Parcel Viewer.
Timestamps could be seen in the fine print of photos from the Jackson County Parcel Viewer.(Jackson County Parcel Viewer)

We plotted out the assessor’s path on a map of the neighborhood. We know that an assessment department employee was in the neighborhood on January 7, 2021.

That employee took the first photo at 12:05:44 pm. The last photo if that area was taken at 12:41:04. That means the employee did 52 inspections in 36 minutes. It averages out to about 41 seconds per property.

KCTV5 Investigates talked with a resident about the discovery.

“What did they do?” Steve Roath asked. “That’s not enough time to do anything in 41 seconds!”

Legislators question physical inspections

Jackson County Legislators asked the Assessment Director, Gail McCann Beatty about how inspections were done.

Legislator Jalen Anderson: How did we get to the point of that one picture enough?

McCann Beaty: That is just typically the standard of what is done in an assessment process. But when we are there, and we are measuring that property, we are seeing all of those things and then those things are noted in the system.

Anderson: And how do you measure?

McCann Beatty: What do you mean, how do we measure? You take a measuring tape and you hook it on one corner of the house and go to the other corner of the house.

Anderson: So, it’s not just the one picture. You are measuring the house.

McCann Beatty: Correct.

Jackson County even provided KCTV5 a video about a year ago, showing homeowners the process of an inspection. In it, you see representatives taking photos, measuring, and documenting in the field.

Jackson County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty said assessors with tape measures were measuring...
Jackson County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty said assessors with tape measures were measuring each house from one corner to another.(KCTV5)

We asked residents if they ever saw anyone from the Assessment Office measuring homes in the neighborhood.

“No, no,” said Steve Roath. “There’s never been anyone here like that.”

What one neighborhood reveals

KCTV5 Investigates walked the neighborhood in question. In fact, we spent more time there than the assessment department did.

We found two homes that look identical. A year ago, the two properties had the same value, but this year, the assessed value on one went up 61%, while the next-door neighbor’s value went up only 27%.

About half of the homes required proper physical inspections because the value increased more than 15%. The largest increase was 71%. Three homes decreased in value.

Two homes lacked recent photos in the parcel viewer.

Several parcels include an additional April photo that shows the back of the home.

How to spot-check your neighborhood

Not all photos have been uploaded to Jackson County’s parcel viewer. Most homes have photos from previous assessment cycles.

You can click here to navigate the Jackson County parcel viewer to get information on how long an assessment employee likely spent at your property or your entire neighborhood.