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Property data analysts say Jackson County assessments skewed by missing information

Posted: 6:21 PM, Aug 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-09 20:17:21-04
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Property data analysts and a former Jackson County assessor believe the county should pay private companies to come up with more accurate property assessment values.

Those were some of the talking points Friday during a meeting at the Guadalupe Center to discuss experts’ ideas for solutions to the county's assessment mess.

Jackson County faces at least 30,000 assessment appeals, which will take months to get through, after property owners recoiled at massive hikes for 2019-20.

“(The county doesn’t) have the people," Marlene Jeffers, who founded a data analysis company, said. "It's a time-consuming process, but for commercial properties it is absolutely essential. You can't trend anything; it's too complex."

Jeffers examined 1,140 sales of commercial properties last year in the county and determined the Jackson County Assessor's Office didn't have the sale price for 997 of them.

But to know what the fair market value is, which County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty said is the goal, Jeffers said it's imperative the county knows those sales prices.

Jeffers said, more often than not, the market value is what someone is willing to pay to acquire the property.

“If you don't know what they paid, or if you've found the sales price but you didn't go out and check the condition of the property on the date of the sale, check the terms and conditions, then you really didn't consult the market,” Jeffers said,

She said there are companies that can come up with accurate data, a generated valuation, for $1 a parcel.

“(The county hasn’t) analyzed this data enough," former assessor Curtis Koons said at the meeting. "They haven't done it internally. All they're doing is defending the consultant who came up with these values, who got a lot of money for doing it."

Koons was the Jackson County assessor from 2007 to 2014, but resigned after a contentious assessment process for 2013-14 valuations that relied in inaccurate data. He said his staff was cut by more than half by the time he left office.

Right now, the county has 15 appraisers, who rely mostly on technology to assess each property.

“They need to have appraisers out in the field,” Koons said.

He said it'll take through the middle of next year to get through all the appeals.

Even if someone hasn’t heard back on their informal appeal or a formal appeal to the Board of Equalization, property owners should still pay the taxes by December 31. If the appeal is still active, they could get some form of refund depending on the appeal outcome.

Preston Smith, who represents the Blue Springs School District on the Board of Equalization, has offered a few suggestions to fix the situation, though none have been adopted so far.

Smith presented a new idea Friday, suggesting that the county hire companies who represent property owners at their appeal hearings. Smith said he’s talked to a few companies, who could do it for as low as $14 per household.

Smith said not only would it help people who aren’t familiar with filing appeals, but it would streamline the process and cut down the total number of appeals.

But all the ideas discussed at Friday's meeting remain community chatter. None have been formally presented to the county nor the Board of Equalization.

Beatty said her office could re-examine neighborhoods if she finds a large amount of appeals in one area.

The deadline to file a formal appeal with the Board of Equalization, which has been extended twice, is Sept. 3.