JACKSON COUNTY, MO (KCTV) -- William Mashburn is a father of three. He’s lived in Jackson County all of his life. We found his emails to the county buried among the thousands of other emails we reviewed.

His recent assessment increased 43%. He questions the lack of a physical inspection and the decision by county assessors to raise his home's value from around $350,000 to more than $500,000.

His emails caught our attention because he decided to have a little fun with the county.

“Most people are able to get through a day without leaving others wanting to file class action lawsuits against them,” wrote Mashburn, “This seems to be a real challenge for you people. I hope you had safe 4th of July celebration and were able to keep all of your fingers. You need those to send that email about my informal review that was promised 3 weeks ago. Chop, chop.”

No one responded. So, he sent another email, “What’s the dill, pickles? It’s mid-July but I might need a new coat to handle your cold shoulder.”

Mashburn spent $450 on an actual appraisal to prove the county wrong. The licensed appraiser reached a value of $350,000.

The county rejected the appraisal, saying they didn’t agree with the appraiser’s methodology.

“It’s going horribly, horribly wrong. Gail McCann Beatty pretty much accused my appraiser of fraud, more or less, which is hilarious because she is the one facing a class action lawsuit!” Mashburn said.

Homeowners face huge hurdles in assessment

KCTV5 decided to dig further into this homeowner’s case because we’ve heard from other homeowners who complain of sitting on hold for hours and say overworked county employees sometimes hang-up in frustration.

Many point out they won’t have their cases reviewed until after they pay their taxes because so many homeowners have filed appeals. They question if that’s fair?

KCTV5 connected with the licensed appraiser who wrote the report on the Mashburn house. He stands by his report. He has more than 15 years of local experience and says you can’t just look at the exterior of a home and throw out figures.

He points out he used MLS and reviewed other properties noting the condition of the sales. He says the higher-priced homes had substantial renovations. He noted the Mashburn home doesn’t have full central air and there were cracks in the basement. He says potential for the property is great, but taxes should reflect current market value.

KCTV5 asked the appraiser if he had any personal connection to Mashburn? He says he did not. He also pointed out he has agreed with the county’s new value on another home. He just feels that in this case the county is wrong.

County records show errors

Mashburn requested all of the information used by the county to value his home. It contained a spreadsheet (below) where the county looked at home sales, the condition of those properties and the square footage. Remember, the county does not have full MLS like the appraiser so they are only looking at exterior photos.

The county lists 15 comparable properties. However, 3 of the sales were after the January 1st deadline. Two different appraisal experts say those sales should not be considered. It’s unclear if the county was trying to justify a higher price or if an employee just didn’t know the guidelines.

The county also included homes from Grain Valley in the comparable report. Those homes are 24 miles away.

Rockhill Place is a neighborhood in Kansas City and Rockhill Place is also a neighborhood in Grain Valley.

The spreadsheet clearly lists the age of the homes. Rockhill Kansas City includes construction dates of 1909-1921. The other neighborhood has construction dates in the 2000’s. The spreadsheet also alerts the appraiser that the Grain Valley homes are "more than a mile away," but no one in the county caught the error.

“I have driven to Grain Valley numerous times. No matter how many times I do it, it’s still 24 miles away!” said Mashburn.

Where are the photos?

Mashburn was also provided the county’s only image on his home. It’s a 6-yea-old exterior photo.

The photo is time stamped at the bottom, as you can see.

mashburn photo.jpg

KCTV5’s investigators checked the parcel viewer for the county. The family’s exterior photo is missing. And, many photos that appeared before have now vanished. We wondered why are all the photos disappearing?

No one from the county would discuss the emails and reports with KCTV5, saying they were too busy helping taxpayers.

But, one possible explanation may be the county’s position on using pictures instead of physical inspections.

“In short I believe we can use the imagery as an alternative to a physical inspection,” emailed Assessment Director Gail McCann Beatty in March.

Beatty included a definition from the International Association of Assessing Officers (see below):

IAAO 2013

6.4 Alternative to Periodic On-Site Inspections Provided that an initial physical inspection has been completed—and the requirements of a well-maintained data-collection and quality-management program have been achieved, jurisdictions may employ a set of digital imaging technology tools to supplement field inspections with a computer-assisted office review. These imaging tools should include: · Current high-resolution street-view images that enable quality grade and physical condition to be verified · Orthophoto images updated at least every 2 years in rapid growth areas, or at least every 5 years in slow growth areas to identify new buildings or alterations. · Oblique aerial photographic images capable of being used for measurement verification, updated at least every 2 years in rapid growth areas or, 5 years in slow growth areas. · Effective tool sets validate CAMA data and incorporate change detection techniques that compare building dimension data (footprints) in the CAMA system to georeferenced imagery or remote sensing data and identify potential CAMA sketch discrepancies for further investigation. In addition, valuers should visit assigned areas on an annual basis to observe changes in neighborhood condition, trends and property characteristics. An on-site physical review is recommended when significant construction changes are detected, a property is sold, or an area is affected by catastrophic damage. Building permits should be regularly monitored and affected properties that have significant change should be inspected when work is complete.

Legal experts for KCTV5 reviewed the definition and point the age of photos may be significant.

Mashburn plans to bring it up at up upcoming Board of Equalization hearing.

Advice for homeowners appealing assessments

Lawyers advise that any homeowner should file a sunshine request and ask the county for the information used in their assessment. This should include the comps, photos and any other spreadsheets or information used in determining your home’s value.

One expert advised the date and time of your home’s “desktop review” is another piece of information to ask for.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 people are appealing their assessments.

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