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Q&A with Gail McCann Beatty, Director of Assessment for Jackson County

Posted at 9:03 PM, Jul 05, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Director of Assessment Gail McCann Beatty met with KSHB 41 Reporter Megan Abundis to talk about the controversy surrounding Jackson County property tax assessments.

Below is a part of the conversation between McCann Beatty and Abundis.

Q: How many appeals have been filed so far this year? How does that compare to 2019 and 2021?

McCann Beatty said the concerns about assessments are what the county anticipated.

She said industry standards tell the assessor’s office that 10% of county parcel owners will appeal.

With five days left to file an appeal, 7% of parcel owners have appealed their assessments, or about 22,000 people.

“20-25,000 appeals are going to be our normal standard for Jackson County," McCann Beatty said. "If you look at St. Louis, they are expecting 33,000."

McCann Beatty said in 2019, there were a higher number appeals and COVID-19 drove appeal numbers down in 2021.

“I do understand people’s concerns, so that does not fall on deaf ears,” she said. “It’s 30% on average and that seems to be still holding true. That doesn’t mean that everyone is going to see 30%. Some will see higher, some will see lower.”

KSHB 41 has talked with people who received property tax assessment increases of 50%, 80%, 100% and higher.

McCann Beatty said she held meetings last summer and into the spring this year to help people understand their assessments and the appeal process.

“We’ve done multiple news and print interviews to make it easy on everyone,” she said. “I understand everyone is struggling to have to pay more. I remind people my function by state statute is to place property values on everyone in the county. I encourage people to pay attention to each of their jurisdictions and make sure they attend their levee meetings. It’s the levee rates that actually determine what their taxes are going to be.”

McCann Beatty says the Board of Equalization would determine who gets an appeal extension.

Q: What precisely was the issue with mailing out the assessments? (We understand it's been available online, but many homeowners rely on the mailings.)

“We did not get them out as early as we had anticipated, but everything is out," she said. "We have the values posted online. There are certain things we can’t control. I had someone reach out today saying, 'I haven’t gotten my notice.' I don’t know why they haven’t gotten it.”

At least one court case over the assessments process keeps her from talking about certain areas of the assessment process.

“At this point, I can’t comment on specifics because there is some litigation that the county is dealing with,” she said. “So, I can’t comment on the notices right now. But I ensure you everyone has their notice. But I just encourage people — go ahead and get your appeal filed if you feel you need to, if your property value is too high.”

Q: The county assessor's office has three contracts with Tyler Technologies worth $18 million. Are the county and taxpayers getting what they are paying for?

“I think we are," McCann Beatty said. "The first thing we did is our new CAMA (computer-assisted mass appraisals) system, which is our computer system. We were dealing with a legacy system that was more than 20 years old that literally did not function and the vendor no longer serviced it. It was important that we get a new state of the art up-to-date system in place. The second thing we did was get a parcel-by-parcel review. That is something the industry says you should do every 10 years or so. It had been a number of years since the county had done one, probably since the 70’S. So we did that, that means you’re visiting 300,000 parcels. That takes time and effort and we simply don’t have the staff to do that on our own."

Q: There were complaints and issues in 2019. Is the county glad it stayed with Tyler Technologies this time around?

McCann Beatty said yes. She said they put out 11 bids on the computer system and Tyler Technologies was in the top three.

She said the company with the number two bid backed out because they couldn’t work on the system in time.

Tyler Technologies was determined to be most qualified.

“We will be working with Tyler Technologies through the 2025 year, but our goal is to handle this in-house on our own, but we are about 30 people short,” she said.

Q: Some homeowners have filed sunshine requests to get documentation about when the county conducted physical exterior inspections. Will they be available?

“We will have it available. We are running into a little bit of a challenge in printing out the property record cards,” she said. “When we send them out, there is a photo, that photo is dated so we know that we have been there to visit.”

McCann Beatty said there is no such thing as an inspection report, just an iPad user verifying the information is correct and making changes if needed.

The iPad data uploads to the county and a quality control worker goes back and re-verifies the information.

“All I can say is I can show you the photo and show you when they were there," McCann Beatty said. "We have thousands and thousands of blue cards that were filled out, mailed, filled out in person — we absolutely did all of those inspections.”

Q: Does the county rely on aerial photos to conduct some assessments? How confident is the county in that system?

“We have never used aerial drones. We have aerial photographs that we get every year, but we do personal visits and always have,” she said. “We had boots on the ground — 40-50 boots on the ground literally every day for two years out visiting homes.”

Q: Who’s burden is it to prove a property assessment?

“By state statute, it is our burden to prove the value," she said. "However, when someone comes to appeal, they have to give us some rationale as to why they think our value is wrong."

Photos can be brought in or attached online showing no updates to the property have been made.

“In 2019, they said, 'We don’t know where to go to get info about our neighborhoods.' So we created that extra layer by adding realtors who help," she said.

Q: What is the county doing to make sure huge errors don't happen again (for example, $2M home assessment that was mistakenly entered as commercial)? We’re talking about a massive error, do you take responsibility for that property?

“Let me tell you why that error occurred,” she said.” Do I take responsibility? Let’s start there. Yes, because we want accurate information, and that’s why it’s important for property owners to come and talk to us. In that case, there were three different structures on this property and one of them was a triplex that puts that into a commercial category and that’s why it was deemed that way. The owner explains to us that the triplex was not livable. Although when you go and look there are satellite dishes there and they had to go and show us that it in fact is not a triplex anymore and then we put it back into its appropriate residential category.”

 Q: How will you prevent other errors if there was this error?

“There are always going to be errors in this process, it is not a perfect system and that’s why I say this is a partnership between the public and the county assessment office for you to let us know when those things happen,” she said. “We are human. It is humans going out and getting this information. So whether you accidentally transpose a number or put a number in the wrong spot, that is always going to happen. And that’s why we are constantly doing quality control, trying to verify, and re-verify that information to make sure we have the most accurate information we can. Is it a perfect system? It's not. It’s mass appraisal.”

Q: Is this system of large increases the best system?

“Mass appraisal is the only option we have," McCann Beatty said. "It is what every county in the state of Missouri and every jurisdiction in the world is doing."

Q: How do these errors and the people who are worried about paying their assessments weigh on you?

“It always weighs on me because I face the exact same thing that they do," she said. "I received a significant increase just like they did. I believe if we get everyone to market value like it should be, the levees will come down and there will be a better balance.”

Q: If Manny Abarca's idea on a 15% limit on increases passes will the taxpayers be out that $18 million to Tyler? Or will the county request a refund?

“No. First of all there is nothing in the state statutes that would simply allow us to do a 15% across the board," McCann Beatty said. "Second of all, that would create even more inequity because neighborhoods don’t appreciate at the same rate. So if you do a 15% across the board, someone who didn’t get 15% now is at 15% level. Is that fair? It’s not. But also, if I have neighborhoods that should have a 40% and only get 15% that’s not fair either. A flat rate does not create equity at all, it creates inequity.”

Q: What about legislation for capping senior's assessments?

“I believe we need to move forward with the homestead extension for our seniors, but the state legislature needs to clean up the language, because right now it’s not in a format that we can actually implement,” she said.

Q: How were commercial properties assessed? 

“What we did with the commercial properties was a little bit different,” she said.

They looked at a process called Trending (market sales) and Costar (a commercial database like MLS). Through the combined data, they came up with a percentage (a trending rate) between 25-30%

Do you still feel like that was the process you believe in?


Q: How come we are not getting inundated with complaints from homeowners who face increases in Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas?

McCann Beatty said because Kansas does assessments every year, it would total the same percentage as Missouri for its assessments every two years.

She says Kansas has done a better job at keeping up with market value and that Kansas also uses a Tyler Technologies product for their evaluation.

Q: Anonymous graphics have surfaced about assessments that suggest lower assessments for county officials.

“I think what they (an anonymous graphic creator) did, they picked four or five elected officials," McCann Beatty said. "If you really want to check, check them all. Because I can point out some elected officials that got significant increases. It’s just part of the system, simply it’s a computer system, it's mass appraisal. You put the parcel numbers in, you put your market areas in, and it generates values. There was no one that went and looked and said I’m going to pick out X,Y, Z and decide they are going to get this percentage. We have over 270,000 single-family homes. That’s way too many for us to have picked and chosen.”

Q: Can you explain how to file an appeal?

“Once you set up an account online, unless you filed your declaration in March (same password), it really takes only about 10 minutes," she said. "It asks basic questions — 'What do you think your property is worth? What are you challenging the value, You check a box. If you have the documentation you can upload it at that time. If you don’t have it right now, you can upload it later, or bring it with you to your appeal.”

Q: What about the call center?

“If the call center gets busy, it will give you a message and unfortunately it hangs up and basically directs you back to the website," she said. "But the call center can help you both with scheduling your appeal and help you enter that appeal and schedule your informal through that. Keep calling back or you can do walk-ins, but we are stopping walk-ins on Friday.”

McCann Beatty said a deadline extension would be up the Board of Equalization.

She said they just added more in-person appointments and virtual appointments for the informal process through August 15th.

The deadline to file for an appeal or request an interior inspection is July 10, 2023.

"We encourage property owners to file an appeal, set an informal meeting with an assessment representative or request an interior inspection online," McCann Beatty said. "If they are unable to go online, we do offer by phone 877-895-9675 or we accept walk-ins from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 through July 7 at 1300 Washington."

The Board of Equalization will schedule hearings for property owners after the deadline to appeal has passed.