JACKSON COUNTY, MO (KCTV) – Jackson County’s Board of Equalization will review plans to provide an overall solution in the Jackson County assessment mess on Thursday morning.
The four different options presented to the board have been applauded and encouraged by different legal groups ranging from Legal Aid of Western Missouri to Polsinelli, which represents commercial businesses.
Both groups have submitted letters arguing the assessment is flawed, and that viewpoint is now backed by a statistician based out of Washington DC. Josh Myers analyzed the Jackson County assessment and found numerous problems. Myers says the county does not meet assessment standards when it comes to values in the suburban areas and within Kansas City limits. The problem is actually worse inside the city, where the values remain too low overall when compared to market value.
However, data also reveals the assessment lacks uniformity. Homeowners are paying too much or too little when it comes to taxes. Tax bills are now rolling out to homeowners who are expected to pay despite major concerns about the quality of the valuations.
KCTV5 News has done numerous reports on the tax assessment issue facing Jackson County residents, compiling this top 10 list of problems for property owners.
1. Data problems - This assessment has been plagued by data problems from the start, a documented fact that has even been mentioned inside Jackson County’s own emails. Many criticize the use of 20-year-old software to make such sweeping changes throughout the county.
Additionally, homeowners realized severely outdated photos of their properties remain on the county’s parcel viewer. Commercial data experts, such as Marlene Jeffers, were stunned at the lack of verified sales records. Many question how the assessment department could assess market value with a lack of updated information.
2. Sliding deadlines - Problems with computer software were so great that deadlines kept shifting. That meant many homeowners received late notice of their assessment values. In turn, the Board of Equalization slid deadlines, too. All appeals would be normally be resolved at this point, but that is not the case as the BOE expects to hear appeals well into the next year.
3. Low staffing - The assessment department has publicly discussed the staffing issues they face. Prior assessors have stepped forward saying it’s not surprising things have gotten to this point due to the lack of investment in the assessment department. Emails revealed key employees walking out and quitting as the assessment rolled forward.
4. Some properties are skyrocketing - This is true for both residential and commercial properties. Homeowners and businesses have shared assessments that show their property values are more than doubling. Many are still fighting the new assessments but will be forced to pay higher taxes because their appeals have not been heard yet.
5. Uneven results - This is a reality that both homeowners and the KCTV5 News investigative department noticed almost immediately. Home values are all over the place, even on the same street. Homeowners can’t argue their neighbors got a better deal to reduce their taxes, but the unevenness of the assessment is something many point to as a compelling reason for an overall solution. This is now confirmed by the statistician out of Washington DC.
6. Land values are soaring in some places - This has been pointed out by community activists and homeowners. The land value for many properties shot up, and this includes adjacent lots many homeowners bought for a nominal fee so they could expand lots and maintain their neighborhoods. Homeowners also complain some of the land that shot up in value can’t be developed because it’s landlocked and lacks an access to utilities.
7. 14.9% is the county’s favorite number - This was the increase for 28% of all homes across the county, or 74,311 residential properties, when assessment bills first rolled out. State law requires a physical inspection at 15%. Jackson County maintains that in person physical inspections are not needed. The county reviewed photos. When the KCTV5 News investigation department teamed up with data expert Preston Smith to see if the county hedged their bets, the numbers indicated that was the case.
8. There is a record number of homeowners appealing - More than 30,000 homeowners are appealing their taxes, and many remain frustrated that their appeals have not been heard. Others report to KCTV5 News that their appeals have been lost in the process. Others wait endlessly on hold to connect with a real person.
9. The county legislature and state representatives have both expressed concerns about the assessment - Chairperson Theresa Galvin calls it a “debacle.” The county legislature has passed a new ordinance to require in person physical inspections if property taxes raise more than 15%. State leaders are reviewing concerns in Jackson County and Saint Louis. More reforms are possible.
10. There are still big errors - KCTV5 News continues to uncover jaw dropping errors in the county’s records. A recent report found a Walmart being valued at $350,000, and when the county tried to brush it off as a “website error,” but other multi-million-dollar errors were soon discovered as well. It’s unclear if those errors have been corrected or sent out in tax bills.