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Jackson County legislator calls for ‘emergency meeting’ following assessment audit

County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty says there's 'mistakes' in audit
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Posted at 2:49 PM, Dec 18, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A member of the Jackson County Legislature released a statement Monday calling for an emergency meeting after Missouri Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick found the county’s property assessment process “failed to comply with state law.”

Sean E. Smith (Legislator, 6th District) said he and other legislators received the preliminary results of Fitzpatrick’s audit on Monday.

LINK | Missouri auditor: Jackson County assessment process violated state law

The audit, which is ongoing, revealed the Jackson County Assessment Department failed to properly notify property owners that a physical inspection is required by law. Letters sent to homeowners also included an "inaccurate" statement regarding property owners' rights for an interior inspection.

Manny Abarca (Legislator, 1st District) says both he and Legislator Smith recommended a 15 percent cap in a resolution, and Abarca says there's an overall theme of being "unheard" when it comes to these assessments.

"We try to bring these solutions up, and the county executive would put them down, so we started asking the state for help, and that’s when we got the actual relief we were seeking," Abarca said.

Legislator Abarca says there were clear warning signs from the start that indicated a flawed system, including "dramatic increases for unexplained reasons, all of those elements that different people were telling us, constituencies, the town halls, the outcry for relief that just went unheard and unanswered by the county executive and the assessor, that was clear sign that there’s a problem here."

RELATED | Complete coverage, Jackson County property assessment

Preliminary results of the audit also found that not all 200,000 applicable taxpayers received a notification letter and that only 50,000 letters were prepared "because department officials felt it would have placed an excessive demand on department personnel and resources."

Late Monday evening, Jackson County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty addressed the audit, saying the county is still reviewing the findings but believes there are mistakes.

"As the Jackson County Assessor, I acknowledge the preliminary findings presented by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office regarding our assessment process," Beatty said. "These preliminary findings are being carefully reviewed and thoroughly analyzed by our internal team. While we believe there are mistakes in these preliminary findings, we remain actively engaged with the auditors to ensure a comprehensive understanding of their observations and correct any inaccuracies."

Beatty said county associates completed an extensive review of residential parcels and owners were allowed an opportunity to provide additional information using a postage-paid or online questionnaire.

“Nonetheless, we will provide further updates and detailed actions following the release of the final audit report," Beatty said. "Until then, we remain dedicated to upholding fair and equitable property assessments, ensuring that our assessment process aligns with industry best practices.”

A request for comment from Jackson County Executive Frank White has not yet been answered on the initial results of Fitzpatrick’s audit.

Legislator Abarca says accountability is a necessary practice when it comes to avoiding this problem in the future.

"I think the reality is to continue to hold the county executive and the assessor accountable, and if we can’t do it in this process, then we should do it at the voting box," he said.

Legislator Smith said he’s requesting Legislative Chairman DaRon McGee (Legislator, 4th District) to schedule the emergency meeting to discuss next steps.

“The unlawful reassessment that has placed a massive financial and emotional hardship on so many Jackson County residents must be immediately corrected,” Smith said in a release. “I am disappointed that these issues which were first highlighted months ago haven’t yet been resolved. I stand committed and ready to do my part to correct this debacle."