GRANDVIEW, MO (KCTV) --
Grandview’s tax concerns are just the beginning
Mayor Leonard D. Jones outlines errors and consequences of the recent assessment in a blistering letter to County Executive Frank White and members of the legislature.
This is clearly not the assessment Grandview was expecting. The mayor points out his community has been collecting and turning over information to the county documenting new growth.
The letter claims that Grandview has seen $19,335,501 in new growth and that’s documented through sales and permits. However, the recent assessment only shows $2,209,623 in new growth.
“It has a horrendous impact on the community. And that’s why we want to make sure we are all looking at the same numbers and the same properties because that kind of impact truly hits at the core of why municipalities exist,“ Mayor Jones told KCTV5 by phone.
The mayor lists two examples of commercial properties that were fully constructed and operational at the end of 2018, but somehow the county does not have them assessed that way.
On the other end, residential properties were nailed in the assessment. The mayor points out this will harm struggling families his city represents and trigger automatic drops in the levy.
Mayor Jones anticipates the city will lose a million dollars in his budget.
“We look at public safety and parks and community development and public works. All of those things are impacted in a negative way if the numbers are not properly recorded and properly and accurately identified per property,” Jones said.
He calls on County Executive Frank White and members of the legislature to fix the assessments before they are final.
Jones says the county is willing to sit down and review all the information next week, but he admits he has deep concerns.
“Obviously something different happened this cycle than previous cycles,” Mayor Jones said.
County warned of lack of data
Data experts say they are not surprised at the mistakes Grandview has uncovered especially when it comes to new growth.
“I’ve known for years that this county isn’t good at collecting good data and was making no effort to do so. So, they hired a consultant to generate good values. The problem here is there are not the controls in place,” said commercial data analyst Marlene Jeffers.
Jeffers took a closer look at just commercial property. She discovered out of 1,140 commercial properties sold in 2018, the county only verified 43. Pictures were nonexistent or out of date.
And that appears to be what happened in Grandview. That city kept careful track of new construction and renovations, but the information they shared with the county doesn’t appear to be reflected in the assessment.
“They assumed someone was acting on what they had done. They had done their part. And they assumed someone had done the work to process those,” said Marlene Jeffers.
Jeffers says she has tried to proactively help the county solve problems meeting with county leadership and the consultant, John Q. Ebert more than a year ago.
She pointed out for $3 a parcel, the county could easily create a system to capture building permits which would lead to accurate assessed values. Her plan went nowhere.
Who’s the consultant?
The consultant who made up to $450,000 a year to make sure the county got assessments correct is John Q. Ebert. He’s based out of state.
At times, he was paid directly by Jackson County. But lately, many school districts are chipping in to pay the bill. Either way, John Q Ebert and consulting is being paid for with tax dollars.
His website boasts that his company is “focused on proper, accurate, uniform property tax administration via accomplishing and demonstrating property tax equity.”
He refused to answer any of our questions regarding the obvious problems in the assessment, including the troubling map that shows how many homes throughout the county were raised 14.9%.
Here’s what he writes about his current project with Jackson County:
Jackson County (Kansas City, Missouri) - Approximately 435,000 parcels. E&A Consulting is in the midst of a two-year contract to provide support and consulting services to the Jackson County, MO, Department of Assessment.
- Review, evaluation and report on county's pre-existing Commercial and Residential CAMA system.
- Resurrect key components and modules of the Commercial and Residential CAMA system.
- Provide management and staff training in the use of the pre-existing CAMA system, including the Replacement Cost Module, the Market Module(s) and Income Modules for use in the 2015 sexennial review of properties.
- Provide audit procedures for data collection, analysis and rectification for the triennial review process.
- Appraised Values Final Review of some 9,300 commercial/industrial and condominium properties, including Cost, Market, and Income valuation approaches.
Our investigative team noticed right off the number of parcels is wrong. Kansas City has around 300,000 parcels not 450,000. That number is inflated.
Ebert spoke to us by phone declining to address the growing concerns and deep accusations of racism and discrimination by community groups.
He eventually sent us this statement:
“I received and read your questions. Thank you for your interest in fair and equitable ad valorem property tax assessments in Jackson County. Because of current and impending litigation, which may involve expert testimony by me, I am relegated at this time to a no comment position.”
A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of hundreds of homeowners. Other lawyers tell KCTV5 they are considering similar lawsuits to stop this assessment.
On top of that, there have been calls for investigations by the Missouri State Auditor and the Missouri Attorney General into how this assessment was conducted.