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BLUE SPRINGS, MO (KCTV) – A local data management professional is calling out Jackson County officials over mistakes in work on the latest controversial tax assessment, saying he found the errors using a simple $50 computer program.

Preston Smith has a background in data management and has represented Blue Springs on the Board of Equalization for 12 years. He said he discovered major errors, incorrect calculations and missing information in the county assessment data.

This all started a week ago, when KCTV5 News asked Smith to review a Chapter 20 report generated as part of the assessment process.

That is a report that is required listing residential properties seeing a valuation increase of more than 50% or $50,000, or commercial properties going up 50% or $100,000, from the prior assessment.

The report was filed a month late and in haste, and when KCTV5 News requested the Chapter 20 report, county managers admitted it didn’t exist.

When it was generated, it was quickly smacked together, and its quality was in question.

Smith worked with raw data and realized the Chapter 20 report grossly under-reported the massive number of spikes in assessment valuations throughout the county.

For instance, the county reported that only 1,227 residential parcels crossed the 50% threshold, but Smith said he discovered it was 42,030. He also realized that some properties listed by the county didn’t belong on the Chapter 20 report.

It was the same story for commercial properties, where the county reported 2,297 parcels even though Smith claims the correct number is 7,630, and once again, some information on the original report filed by the county was wrong.

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Data management professional Preston Smith said he discovered major errors, incorrect calculations and missing information in reports connected to the latest Jackson County property tax assessment.

Continuing to crunch data, Smith uncovered shocking information that he shared with the county in hopes it could be corrected.

Smith uncovered that 12,000 parcel records had either duplicate or no existing parcel ID numbers. He also found about 20,000 records where it appeared that the assessment percentages were not calculated correctly in the data.

For example, residential parcels should be at 19% assessed value of market value, meaning a property with a $100,000 market value assessed at 19% would have an assessed tax value of $19,000.

However, Smith was surprised when he found assessed tax values ranging from 19% to 32% of the property’s commercial values.

“I had used the County Assessors data for almost 15 years and never saw issues. In fact, I had used it most of last year without problems,” he told KCTV5 News. “This was the first time for the Jackson County data to show the kind of errors that I found.”

When asked how and why Smith seems to be finding serious problems, he explained he simply bought the professional version of the Google Earth software program for $50 and spent 5 hours assessing the original data.

He then used county data to create an interactive database that shows parcels with dramatic increases in their appraised values.

Smith said there was no special skill required to uncover the errors he found in the county records, he just simply had look for them.

“In both cases, the County Administrator and Assessor seemed eager to fix the problems and get things as accurate as possible,” he said. “I believe that the first step to recovery is recognizing there is a problem, and the County appears to be there.”

How to explore valuations around the county

To view the map, residents should first click here to download the KML file KCTV5 News received from Smith to their desktop PC or Mac.

Next, they either need to open or download the Google Earth application.

After the program is installed on open, users need to click File >> Open and then navigate to the KML file.

Once the map loads, users can explore the map and click on individual parcels. The tables show extensive data on each property and links to the data sources on the Jackson County website.

Residents can use this key to help interpret the numbers:

  • Parcel_ID—the key code for looking up all parcels
  • Owner—where the tax bill is sent and who is listed as the owner
  • Neighborhood—this is a code that the county uses. I don’t have a key to them.
  • Landusecode—all the 1000s are residential properties
  • YearBuilt—when the structure was built
  • Total Square footage for living area
  • SitusAddress—where the parcel is physically located
  • Propertytyre—this is the link to the County’s data
  • ParcelSQfootage---the total square footage of the parcel land
  • Parcel Acre—acreage of the parcel
  • Assessed VA—the 2019 Assessed Valuation
  • MarketValu—the 2019 Market Valuation
  • Taxable Value—the 2019 taxable value
  • Assessed La—the 2019 Assessed Land value
  • AssesssedDim—the 2019 Assessed Improvement value
  • ImprValRes---the Improved Residential Value for 2019
  • LandVAlRes—the 2019 value of the Land Value
  • Taxyear—2019—to verify this is where I got the data
  • F2019MARK—the 2019 Market Value. This should be the same as the other column. Just came from a different merged source
  • F2017ASSE—the 2017 Assessed Value
  • F2017_MARK—the 2017 Market Value
  • PERCENT-1---the percentage change in the 2017 assessed value to the 2019 assessed value

Deadline for formal appeals approaching

Nearly 30,000 people have filed for appeals, and the July 8 deadline for a formal appeal is quickly approaching. Information on filing an appeal can be found on the county website at JacksonGov.org.

A class action lawsuit about the assessment spike is also underway, and more details on that case can be found at KCPropertyTax.com.

The KCTV5 News Investigative team continues to follow viewers leads and information on this story. To share your information, please contact the team at investigate@kctv5.com.

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