Half the staff, same amount of work.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
No wonder Jackson County reassessments are so screwed up. In 2009, the county had 36 appraisers. Now there are 17.
The state of Missouri funds reassessment by a formula. The reimbursement rate was set by the state legislature at $6 per parcel back in 2007. The figure is now down to $3. Yet the number of properties that must be reassessed by law every two years is pretty consistent, about 70,000.
Clearly, homeowners could direct some of their ire for the crazy skyrocketing assessments at the state, not the county.
Given budget constraints, there was no choice, county officials say, but to slash the assessor staff. The county isnt begging for leniency: Officials admit mistakes were made.
But someone should have been more honest in the first place to foresee the current troubles.
And this could be a slippery slope of ever-declining funding, which raises questions as to how the county will perform this vital task in the future.
Some county legislators are considering asking for leeway from the state in what is required. Thats only fair if the state is going to continue slicing the reimbursement rate. There is only so much ground that can be made up by improved data, formulas and squeezing more work out of fewer employees.
Another issue in the long view is possibly capping the increases for seniors, the disabled, people on fixed incomes. The fear is that older residents will own their homes but be forced to sell when they can no longer afford the taxes. This will likely entail changes to what is allowed by state law, which puts things back where some of this mess began in the first place.
About 18,000 properties will be redone to try to make things right this time.
But to ensure that your property gets a second look, county officials stress it is best to file an appeal, with additional documentation if available. This go-round, problems were heightened by the slow housing market and too few comparable sales in some neighborhoods for fair assessments. Officials are fessing up that sales data from properties in one part of town were used to gauge values in completely separate neighborhoods.
In other words, dont believe the county will take care of doing right by your property without a little effort yourself.