JACKSON COUNTY, MO (KCTV) – KCTV5 News has been taking a look at the truth behind the jump in Jackson County tax assessments, requesting and eventually receiving more than a thousand emails from the county.

As part of the reporting process, KCTV5 News shared emails with experts who say the county needs to do better but it will take a serious commitment, including an increase in manpower so property sales can be verified.

The experts say the missing data makes any competent assessment virtually impossible, and former Jackson County Assessment Director Curtis Koons told KCTV5 News that staffing is key to getting that job done.

“They know they’ve got a mess,” Koons said. “And I also want to say something - in reassessment, you go out and you find the sales and the sales determine what the market is. You go and you look at the individual homes and see where those homes values apply on that market. You do not target a market and say I think 50% too low or a 100% too low. You go out first you don’t try to justify how you did it later. The process starts out with gathering data to justify your numbers.”

KCTV5 News also shared the emails with commercial data expert Marlene Jeffers, who said she doesn’t feel the process was fair to tax payers.

“Of course, it isn’t. I would suggest to every taxpayer out there, ask to see your comps, the comparable properties,” Jeffers said. “How did they arrive at that value for your property. Look at the three comparables they have for your property. Ask for them. You have a right to know.”

Jeffers has worked in numerous states and with many different county assessment departments and said she has never seen a mess as big as this.

“No, and it’s going to be very costly to build a department, but that’s the only solution,” she explained. “That’s what everyone else in the county does and that’s what Jackson County is going to have to do as well.”

What happens next

What happens with 2019? Almost everyone agrees that a fair compromise will be difficult to reach at this point. Jeffers even said fair is no longer an option because the county is so far behind on solid data.

Some municipalities have already set levies. The groups with the power to step in and change things are the Board of Equalization and also the State Tax Commission.

The Board of Equalization is currently hearing a record number of appeals from tax payers, but that takes place one homeowner at a time. Many are concerned that some homeowners are overwhelmed with the process or ignored assessment notices because they say “this is not a bill” right at the top.

The board listened to but never took a vote on a plan to cap taxes. Property owners can still contact the board at BoardOfEqualization@Jacksongov.org.

The State Tax Commission is the next step in the property tax process. Homeowners have sent in complaints directly to the STC, however, the commission says the process needs to be followed and that the Board of Equalization has the power to make broad adjustments if they feel that in necessary.

If homeowners do not agree with decisions reached by the BOE, then the commission can hear appeals. The commission can be reached at STC@stc.mo.gov.

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