KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- The Jackson County property assessment process moves forward despite incredible inequities and problems.
This week, both the director of assessment, Gail McCann Beatty, and County Executive Frank White doubled down saying the process must continue.
In the meantime, homeowners and a whistleblower have exposed troubling information that calls the entire process into question.
KCTV5 News was sent pictures of what appears to be a Jackson County property assessor in a yellow vest visually inspecting an incredible property that is currently listed at $975,000.
The county had a different view. It valued the property at just $49,000.
Nearby neighbors are stunned. Their modest homes tripled in value.
Many homeowners say this is evidence of the county winking and nodding at new, wealthier neighbors that will drive minorities out their modest homes.
“It’s a city at war, a county at war with its own residents who have been here for decades. It’s replacing us with this new wealthier model. And I’m crying foul,” said Christine Taylor Butler.
Other homeowners sent KCTV5 neighborhood spreadsheets showing some land values skyrocketing while others were clearly missed. They openly question if it’s time for the process to start over.
Lack of information and transparency
KCTV5 has done numerous reports on all the problems and even recently revealed the county lost access to the MLS system during the assessment process.
Appraisers, who possible jacked up your property values, began working with spreadsheets and simply winged it from there.
“It’s mind boggling they didn’t pay the money to get access to MLS,” said realtor Curtis Jay.
The Kansas City Realtors Association confirms the county no longer has access to MLS and hasn’t for quite some time.
The director of assessment eventually responded to KCTV5 in a statement that tried to blame new rules for who could access the MLS system.
That is a half truth at best. Beatty qualified under the new rules to join the group and obtain a subscription. She is a licensed appraiser in the state of Missouri.
The cost would have been less than $2,000.
Instead, she chose the free limited information and was less than honest about the decisions being made behind the scenes.
Rules not followed
The director of assessment is also supposed to file a report with the legislative auditor and the clerk of the county legislature that details any residential properties that increase more than 50% in value or increase more than $50,000. The rules also apply to commercial property. In that case, the report should include commercial properties that spike more than 100,000% or 50% in value.
Chapter 20 seems to imply there should be clear information about spiking assessments.
No report exists.
KCTV5 did an open records request for that information trying to obtain a clearer picture on how many properties have seen giant spikes in value. We were told that no report was filed. And that the administration will explain why.
We questioned if these rules have been followed in the past. If a report was filed in 2017, when was the last full assessment was done? We were told the report was properly filed.
Does anyone care?
Beatty promises to fix any reported problems. She encourages homeowners to appeal through the informal appeals process or to go before the Board of Equalization.
She says she sympathizes with homeowners who are concerned about rising tax assessments. But she counters the new values are most likely correct and numerous properties were grossly undervalued for years.
“I was shocked in some cases into the increases they had, but I am bound by state statute,” Beatty says.
She is compelled by state statute to assess properties at market value and not simply work off the previous values.
“I don’t want anyone to lose property over this,” McCann Beatty said.
Beatty is not elected. She was appointed by White.
Our investigative team tried to share information with White. He refused to stop and even look at information. He declined information a second time deferring specific questions to Beatty.
He eventually answered questions in a group setting indicating he absolutely supports Beatty and the work she has done.
“She’s the county assessor. I support her. I appointed her. I stand behind her,” said White.
White also indicated assessments are hard and that’s why there is an appeal process.
“Well, the assessment there is no way everything is going to be accurate. There are over 300,000 parcels. We do the best to evaluate each one,” White said.
What can homeowners do?
The informal appeals process is now closed. But homeowners can go before the Board of Equalization to reveal problems.
That means homeowners would need to gather information like comparable sales or an appraisal of their property. The deadline to appeal to the BOE is July 8.
A local attorney is also in the process of filing a class action lawsuit.
“I’m asking that they reassess all the properties in Jackson County is what I am asking for. They have done a horrible job and it’s completely inconsistent and makes no sense at all,” attorney Mandy Shell said.
Shell is asking a judge to step in because she believes the recent assessment violates legal protections like the equal protection calls and sections of the Missouri Constitution.
Shell says she’s also looking at the Missouri Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing act as other avenues to ask for injunctive relief.