The real estate assessment mess in Jackson County is three times worse than previously announced, a consultant hired to help fix it says.
By MIKE HENDRICKS
The Kansas City Star
For more than a month, County Assessor Curtis Koons has said the problem was limited to 18,000 residential properties whose valuations were suspect.
Now it appears that there were shortcomings in the data for most of the 68,000 single-family homes, duplexes and condominiums that came up for reassessment in 2013, consultant Bob Burnett said in Monday’s weekly briefing to the County Legislature.
As a result, the owners of 58,000 houses and duplexes in the assessment area largely west of Troost Avenue should receive new notices in the mail as early as Thursday, Burnett said. That information will go online on Wednesday.
Burnett said “a significant number” of properties will be assigned different valuations from the ones on the original notices that went out in May.
The original 18,000 suspect parcels were just those properties whose values jumped more than 30 percent, he said. A closer look revealed problems with the values set on tens of thousands of other parcels that saw double-digit spikes of less than 30 percent, Burnett said.
So untrustworthy were the values set on 9,000 condominiums that those figures are being thrown out for now and the values for tax purposes are being frozen at 2012 levels until a detailed review can be conducted, Koons acknowledged.
For property owners who saw their market values jump 20, 30, 40 percent or more, the new notices this week will be a welcome relief because most of the changes are expected to result in decreases. But Burnett said some people will be unhappy because the valuations for their properties may still be higher than they were last year.
To deal with the expected influx of calls, the Assessment Department is extending its hours to hear informal appeals by phone through July 22.
Starting next week, the phone lines will open as usual at 8 a.m. weekdays, and staff will take calls until 7 p.m. every day but Friday, when the office closes at 5, County Executive Mike Sanders said. That phone number is 816-881-4601.
Those not satisfied with the results they get from an informal appeal will have until July 29 to file a formal appeal with the Board of Equalization. That is three weeks later than the original deadline, which was set before the problems arose.
The deadlines apply to the owners of all 296,000 real estate parcels in the county, not just those in reassessment area.
Sanders promised a “top-to-bottom review” of this year’s process, but already outside consultants have identified some key flaws. Among them was a tendency to set valuations for large swaths of property based on limited sales of properties in those areas.
“There’s a wide range of issues that have to be looked at,” Sanders told the legislature. He and others in his administration continue to stress the significance of state budget cuts, which meant there were fewer people in the field to assess properties than in the last reassessment cycle in 2011. There also was a shortage of people in the office to analyze that data.