As She Stares Down 21,000 Appeals, Jackson County Assessor Says 'We Absolutely Need More' Staff | KCUR

As She Stares Down 21,000 Appeals, Jackson County Assessor Says 'We Absolutely Need More' Staff

Jul 2, 2019

Jackson County officials are searching for a way out of a lingering property reassessment fiasco, and the county's director of assessment says her office needs all the help it can get.

"I could easily triple my staff based on the number of parcels that we have in our county," Gail McCann Beatty told KCUR's Up To Date on Monday. "I am well over my overtime budget right now, we're only halfway through the year."

McCann Beatty, a former state legislator, said the shortage is significantly affecting the process of wading through more than 21,000 appeals that her office has recieved in the last few weeks, but she remains confident in her current staff.

Her office is also facing the prospect of a class-action lawsuit that, if successful, could invalidate the reassessment of the county's 300,000 parcels. A homeowner filed suit Monday on behalf of everyone who pays property taxes in the county, claiming the method for setting property values is unfair and unconstitutional.

When it comes to staffing shortages in the assessment office, county Legislative Chair Theresa Galvin suggested a solution could come in the next budget.

"She and I were just having that conversation," Galvin said, "and we were going to talk about where she's at."

Budget negotiations take place in the fall, and any changes would be adopted in 2020.

Even before the current controversy over assessment rates, the assessor's office has been working with an outside consultant to ease the load. The 2-year contract with John Q. Ebert and Associates Consulting is worth $1.4 million, "and quite frankly we would have never gotten this far without them," McCann Beatty says.

Legislative Vice Chair Dan Tarwater, who was quick to praise McCann Beatty's performance, said a way forward could be found.

"Every time that Gail has asked for people," he said, "we've given them what they need."

Jackson County Legislative leaders Dan Tarwater, left, and Theresa Galvin last week helped craft a letter to County Executive Frank White urging him to redo the assessment process.
Credit Jackson County, Missouri

Tarwater also suggested shrinking the department's reliance on the outside contractor and giving more of that work to county employees instead.

"If you look at the number of staff that we need," McCann Beatty said, "the money that has been paid is a drop in the bucket of what needs to be really put into this, to have enough staff to do the job the way it needs to be done."

For now, her office will continue working on appeals, which will likely keep rolling in as property owners have until July 8 to file to the county's Board of Equalization.

McCann Beatty, who said at a board meeting last week that some people were filing informal appeals "with the intent of overwhelming our system," reframed her office's situation.

"My opinion is it's not about the volume," McCann Beatty says. "It's about helping each and every taxpayer that feels like we may have gotten their value incorrect."

Gail McCann Beatty, Theresa Galvin and Dan Tarwater spoke with Steve Kraske on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date. Listen to their entire conversation here.

Luke X. Martin is associate producer of KCUR's Up To Date. Contact him at luke@kcur.org or on Twitter, @lukexmartin.