KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All week, and really all summer, Jackson County legislators have talked about how to improve this year's property assessment process.
"We should've been able to figure this out as soon as we got past 2019, when the legislature invested the $18 million," Jalen Anderson, 1st district at-large legislator said, referring to the assessment mess that happened in 2019.
They take issue with Tyler Technologies, the company the county contracted to generate the property values, which the county awarded an $18 million dollar contract.
"Is it true that we still have about three and a half million bucks withheld from Tyler?" Manny Abarca, 1st district legislator, asked County Administrator Troy Schulte.
Schulte responded, "Yeah, I think it's more than that."
However, Mod Op, the company the county is paying $90,000 to handle assessment communications, takes issue with county officials and legislators using the term "withhold."
Mod Op told KSHB 41 Tyler has not billed the county yet for the $6 million remaining on the contract, so the county hasn't issued any money.
"I think that was their concern that we're 'withholding' it," Schulte told KSHB 41 on Thursday. "I think the number we're actually withholding is about $4 million, but they haven't billed us through, so a total of $6 million."
Schulte said the county has daily conversations with Tyler to make sure they meet their requirements, of which they've fallen short so far, resulting in mass confusion for homeowners.
Schulte added that Tyler Technologies is not in breach of its contract.
It's a deliverable-based contract, so Schulte says when Tyler completes a project, then they get paid.
"We have paid them for completion of the software. We have not paid them for the completion of the parcel-by-parcel review or the appeals process, which is their contract," Schulte said. "So those are the processes where we continue to work, negotiate with Tyler, to make sure we get the results we need."
The parcel-by-parcel review and the appeals process is where Schulte says Tyler has fallen short.
Tyler turned the parcel data into the county four months late, causing a time crunch.
"It's that compression issue of trying to do it within a 30 to 60 day process, as opposed to what our original intention had been, to be a four to five month process," Schulte said at the legislature meeting.
Tyler's phone system was not working properly, leaving homeowners hanging while trying to schedule appeal hearings.
Schulte said Tyler's phone system was set up on eastern time, not central. They didn't have enough staffing.
People would be on hold for a long time and when they were next, the line would hang up. There wasn't an option to leave a voicemail. When homeowners had appeals hearings set up on a Zoom call, no one with Tyler would show up.
Jackson County Legislature Chairman Daron McGee said constituents told him they took off work to be on the Zoom call only to have no one show up.
Schulte told legislators that Tyler had scheduled too many Zooms in one hour, thinking they'd only take five to 10 minutes. In reality, the calls required much more time than that, leading to delays.
"My conversations with Tyler was, 'Answer the G-D phones, that's what we're paying you for.' That was the recurring issue.," Schulte said.
The phone issues got so bad that the county had to take over that portion on July 10.
The legislators talked about that at-length at their last meeting.
"We had the Tyler Technologies representative here. They told us everything was great and clearly things are not as well as they expounded to us three weeks ago," McGee said. "Clearly that was bull. I mean, that doesn't even make sense with all issues we're having. It's countywide. It makes us look bad that we've contracted to a company that clearly has done a bad job. We should have never [hung up] on taxpayers."
Abarca asked several times during the meeting when the county will acknowledge the assessment process was a failure.
"Where does the buck stop?" Abarca asked.
Legislators are expected to discuss a resolution at their next meeting to further ensure Tyler Technologies meets its requirements. Sean Smith, 6th district legislator, brought up the idea.
Schulte responded to the resolution idea, saying, "I don't think that would hurt."