Kansas City taxpayers have performed their own assessments of the Jackson County property tax system. The verdict: mass confusion, myriad complaints and record numbers of appeals.
Now the muddled assessor’s office is facing a class action lawsuit – and after what he says were “multiple” complaints by citizens to his office’s Whistleblower Hotline, Missouri State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick notified the county that he’s investigating.
In his letter to the county, Fitzpatrick cites, among other concerns, residents’ inability to get through phone lines to schedule informal appeals, and others finding their appeals decided by possibly unqualified personnel.
The Jackson County assessor’s office has been besieged for years now by charges of skyrocketing and wildly unequal property values, occurring even along the same streets.
News reports also have found suspicious discrepancies between some prominent public officials’ assessments and their neighbors’. KMBC 9 Investigates, for instance, learned that, while Jackson County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty’s own property value increased by over $51,000 since 2021, “Her next-door neighbors, on the other hand, received increases of over $96,000 and $122,000.”
Strangely, after the TV station confronted McCann Beatty with that fact, her property value increased to be “more in line with her neighbors’.”
KMBC also found that, according to the county anyway, Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross’ home saw a 20% drop in market value while his next-door neighbor’s went up by $189,540. And while Jackson County Executive Frank White’s property increased in value by $26,000, his neighbors’ jumped $80,000 to $100,000.
Besides a possible two-tiered assessment system, the assessor’s office has imposed huge tax increases on often fixed-income property owners. “A record 54,539 appeals have been filed” by sticker-shocked residents, reports KCTV5.
A class action lawsuit by residents alleges the assessor’s office even failed to “notify some property owners of their assessments by the deadline set by state statutes – June 15,” reports KSHB 41.
“It’s not the desire of the plaintiffs in this case simply to not have proper tax increases,” attorney Kenneth B. McClain, who represents the property owners, said. “They are simply saying if, in fact, there is a reassessment and tax increase, you have to follow the rules.”
Says his law firm Humphrey, Farrington & McClain: “It is not enough to post the increases on-line; the notice must be given either in-person or by mail. If you did not receive your notice on time, the County should not be raising your taxes.”
The firm has asked the court that all Jackson County property owners who didn’t receive a timely notice of assessment be included in the class action lawsuit.
KCTV5 reports the lawsuit has since been expanded to challenge the county’s tortuous appeals process, which the class action argues has wrongfully shifted the burden of fixing assessments onto property owners themselves.
The lawsuit seeks to have increased assessments, and therefore higher taxes, invalidated for owners who didn’t receive notice as required by law.