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Official says Jackson County property tax assessments are 'not an exact science'

 A woman wearing a gray jacket with a label that reads "Jackson County Missouri Assessment" talks at a microphone inside a radio studio.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Gail McCann Beatty talks about recent Jackson County property tax assessment on KCUR's Up To Date on July 5, 2023.

After years of undervaluing homes, Jackson County's recent property tax assessment saw the value of properties increase by an average of 30%, while some owners saw spikes of more than 200%. The deadline to file an appeal is July 10.

Jackson County property tax assessments, required every two years by a Missouri state statute, are causing concern and frustration among some residents who saw a significant increase in the valuation of their home.

Outdated technology and years of being understaffed have contributed to property valuations not being at fair market value, making this year's assessment a shock to some. The value of homes increased by an average of 30%, but some property owners saw spikes of more than 200%.

"It is not an exact science," said Gail McCann Beatty, director of the Jackson County Assessment Department. "And I would argue that if you had three appraisers come to your house to do an appraisal, they probably all come with three different values."

Tyler Technologies aided the Jackson County assessor's office with software support and personnel. Assessments of the county's over 300,000 parcels began in January 2021.

"I have to reassess all 300,000 every two years, and you're using computer models," Beatty said. "Everything just doesn't fit into the computer models. And so, you know, we have to make corrections over time."

Nearly 22,000 appeals have been filed so far, which Beatty said is on par with what's expected and part of the process. Property owners have until July 10 to file an appeal.

The steep increase in assessments are concerning for some low-income and seniors living on a fixed income. But the property tax assessment does not mean a definitive increase to the homeowner's tax bill.

"In theory, what should happen is when property values increase, levees should decrease to compensate," Beatty said.

A bill awaiting signature by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson could ease the tax burden faced by seniors in the years to come.

"It is absolutely necessary. And it's one of the things that I have advocated for," said Beatty. "The challenge with this particular legislation is it doesn't give any direction to the counties of how to implement it."

Beatty says the current legislation omits those who are not receiving Social Security benefits, would not differentiate between individuals in a "$20,000 home" or a "$10 million home," and the county doesn't have a database of where seniors live.

Beatty said she's unclear if the governor intends to sign the legislation, and that she hopes lawmakers will make corrections.

"I understand that this is painful. I understand why people are upset," Beatty said. "But I also believe that once we get everybody to their market value, that it will be better."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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