Two Missouri Elected Officials are Bringing Relief to Tens of Thousands of Jackson County Property Owners. These Two Formidable Officials are, Attorney General Andrew Bailey and State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick.
December 20, 2023 by Joe Hoft and Toni Viens, MAI
In today’s world, there are few elected officials who truly care about the rule-of-law or the welfare of their constituents; however, in Missouri, two formidable elected officials are working to provide relief to tens of thousands Jackson County home owners.
For property Tax Year 2023, Kansas City and all of Jackson County, property owners were shocked with the dramatic increase in property tax assessments. The majority of the current assessments were in excess of 30% from the previous year, with many assessments increased by 100% or more. Along with the unrealistically high property assessments, the assessment notices were mailed late which resulted in reducing the allotted time a home owner could register an appeal. Additionally, the appeal process was convoluted and the assessor’s office was often unreachable.
Property owners were not afforded any discernable relief from Gail McCann Beatty, the Jackson County Director of Assessment or from Frank White, the County Executive. Either party could have mitigated this situation, but chose not to do so.
Thankfully, through concerted efforts of several local elected officials and a number of citizens, both the State Attorney General and the State Auditor became involved in helping resolve this untenable situation.
On December 19, 2023, State Attorney General Bailey brought forth a legal action against Frank White in his official capacity as Jackson County’s Executive Director, Gail McCann Beatty in her official capacity as Jackson County Director of Assessment, Jackson County Legislature, Jackson County Board of Equalization and Tyler Technologies, Inc. (partially owned by Blackrock, an Investment Management and Financial Services firm with trillions of dollars of assets under management).
In a “Writ of Mandamus,” Attorney General Bailey states:
“Jackson County’s 2023 Assessments were not only unlawful, but the failures were systemic – from failing to provide proper notice and inspections under the law, to coercing property owners to drop their appeals. Repeatedly, Jackson County violated the rights of property owners, adding insult to injury at a time in which inflation is already a scourge upon Missouri citizens. Those affected by Jackson County’s systemic failures under the law were not just a hand full of citizens; instead, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of citizens and property owners are impacted. When property values are not assessed in accordance with the law, citizens may be overtaxed without an effective avenue for relief, along with a myriad of other collateral consequences. For thousands of citizens with little opportunity to improve their financial situations and simply struggling to make ends meet under normal circumstances, such as senior citizens living on a fixed income, the consequences of Jackson County’s unlawful conduct can be severe.”
Attorney General’s full Writ of Mandamus:
In addition to the Attorney General’s findings, on December 18, 2023, the State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick sent a letter to Gail McCann Beatty as County Assessor, Frank White as County Executive and the Jackson County Legislature addressing the following conclusions
“The Jackson County AD [Assessor] failed to provide property owners whose properties’ assessed valuations increased over 15 percent adequate notification of their rights regarding physical inspections, and what notification was given was inaccurate and often untimely. As a result, the AD did not comply with the provisions of Section 137.115.11 and any residential real property assessed valuation increase over 15 percent is likely invalid. The Jackson County Legislature, County Executive, and Assessor should determine what remedies are available, such as limiting 2023 assessed valuation increases to 15 percent, using prior year assessed valuations, or allowing additional appeals and/or tax protests; then notify taxpayers of these remedies, and allow adequate time for the taxpayers to pursue such remedies.”
The Missouri State Auditor’s two document correspondence can be found at the following link https://auditor.mo.gov/AuditReport/ViewReport?report=2023086&token=7733455982
Having both the State Attorney General and State Auditor become involved in the over assessment situation in Jackson County, was the result of the encouragement of many property owners and real estate professionals.
The following who volunteered extensively of their time and professional knowledge in providing relief to all home owners in Jackson County should be given special recognition.
Chris Sander, State Representative, arranged meetings with state officials to go over the improprieties of the Jackson County Assessment Department, the County Executive Office, County Board of Equalization, County Legislature and the County’s consultant Tyler Technologies. Representative Sander will be introducing a number of bills designed to help mitigate any future problematic assessment issues.
Sean Smith, 6th District Legislator for Jackson County, held many interviews with a number of county officials, met with numerous citizens to provide direction on the process of property appeal, arranged for experts to speak directly with county and state officials and worked with the State Auditor in helping to resolve the over assessment of thousands of Jackson County home owners.
Preston Smith, former candidate for County Office, provided numerous in person presentations and podcasts to help people understand the valuation and appeal processes. Mr. Smith had a number of press interviews, completed data analysis on assessments and coordinate with Sean Smith and Chris Sanders to bring the Jackson County assessment situation to the attention of Missouri State officials.
Stacey Johnson-Cosby, Realtor and Advocate, is one of the most knowledgeable real estate professionals in greater Kansas City Metro. Ms. Cosby held workshops over a number of weekends where property owners could receive advice and help from a panel of experts knowledgeable in property assessment. Ms. Cosby also meet with the Missouri State Auditor’s Kansas City satellite office.
Marlene Jeffers, Principal, Courthouse USA, an expert in computer property data aggregation and new appraisal technology. Ms. Jeffers shared her in-depth knowledge on computer systems with state and local officials. Ms. Jeffers was interviewed by media a number of times and provided detailed insight to the workings of mass appraisal technology.
Toni Viens, MAI, Real Property Tax Consultant, Author and Instructor, provided guidance to hundreds of home and duplex owners on property valuation, income analysis and the appeal process. Ms. Viens also wrote a 50-page research paper on the flaws of the Assessor and Tyler Technology commercial property valuation. Ms. Viens conclusions related to Jackson County Tax Year 2023 commercial property valuation process is: “Based upon documentation the Jackson County Assessment Department Director in concert with Tyler Technologies provided to the public, and without additional information from the County, the methodology used for commercial property assessment for Tax Year 2023 did not adhere to acceptable appraisal practice, and the Jackson County commercial property valuation conclusions are overinflated and unsubstantiated.”
Antonia “Toni” Viens, MAI, SRA is a consultant and works directly with Mass Appraisers, Assessor’s Offices, Attorneys and Property Owners in providing direction in property valuation appeals and in instructing appraisers on real property mass appraisal valuation. Toni has worked in an Associate Chief Appraiser/Director of Assessments capacity for several appraisal districts and has worked directly with on staff attorneys in the appeal process for larger commercial properties, many in excess of 100 of millions of dollars.
Toni holds the MAI and SRA designations and has worked in the Mass Appraisal field since 2004. She has served as a Special Magistrate and State Hearing Officer presiding over appeal hearings and providing final appeal decisions. Toni has authored a number of industry articles, courses and taught as an adjunct professor for New York University’s School of Real Estate. Toni can be contacted at Toni@EquitablyAssessed.com