This episode of Radio Active Magazine offers non-overlapping perspectives on the ongoing reassessment in Jackson County, Missouri. First, Justin Williams and Mark Maschger discuss the current reassessment process in Jackson County, Missouri. Justin and Mark are licensed appraisers with The Williams Group (TWG) headquartered in Lee’s Summit. This is followed with a conversation with Robert Sauls, who represents Eastern Independence in the Missouri state House of Representatives. Sauls discusses what he would like to see in legislation as well as some of the practical difficulties in working with the majority in Jefferson City. That is followed by brief comments about (a) what property owners in Jackson County might want to do before the July 10 deadline to request a review of their reassessment and (b) the larger context of this issue.
Maschger said that part of the problem is that Jackson County has been advertising to hire certified appraisers at 50 percent of the market rate, and they cannot find qualified people to work for half what they can get elsewhere. “Open Positions” in JacksonGov.org currently lists 14 openings, half of which are for appraisers. No other department in the County has that many openings.1
DISCLOSURE COUNTIES IN NON-DISCLOSURE STATES
Both Jackson County, Missouri, and Johnson County, Kansas, are officially “full disclosure” counties in “non-disclosure states”. “Full disclosure” means that data on the price sold is (or should be) available to the general public. “Non-disclosure” means that it’s not. Thirty-two states are “full disclosure”, including Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Kentucky. Ten are non-disclosure, including Kansas and Missouri, and eight are “in between”, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee.2
This is implemented very differently between Jackson County, Missouri, and Johnson County, Kansas. “Property data” in Johnson County includes substantial information documenting the factors considered in arriving at the assessed value.3 People may not like their assessments, but in Johnson County, they can see how the numbers were obtained. That’s not true in Jackson County, where the public information is limited to what the County thinks the market value was between 2020 and 2023 plus the assessed and taxable values for those years plus the square feet of structure(s) and of the parcel; see the discussion below of “How to access Jackson County, Missouri, reassessment information”.
On 2021-01-12 Tyler Technologies published a press release announcing a $17.9 million contract with Jackson County to upgrade Jackson County’s real estate appraisal system. They selected Tyler “because of its stability and proven track record in large jurisdictions similar to Jackson County. … Tyler has more than 26,000 successful installations across more than 10,000 sites, with clients in all 50 states, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, and other international locations.”4
Tyler may have offered the most attractive proposal that Jackson County saw at that time. A recent search for reports of problems in other jurisdictions with Tyler Technologies identified 5 different seemingly credible news reports of problems in different jurisdictions, 2 of which were published before 2021. In 2014 people in Marion County, Indiana sued claiming they had been wrongfully imprisoned, because of bugs in Tyler software. In November 2016 Washington County, Pennsylvania, paid Tyler Technologies $1.6 million over their original contract amount of $6.96 million, including paying Tyler Technologies personnel to testify as expert witnesses in county court responding to property owners’ complaints.5
If Jackson County refused for years to hire competent appraisers, and then submits is residents to the problems people are experiencing with the current reassessment, it raises questions about the commitment of County leaders to fairness and transparency in appraisals and other County affairs.
HOW TO ACCESS JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, REASSESSMENT INFORMATION
The taxable value of real estate in Jackson County, Missouri, has reportedly increased 30 percent on average this year over last year, but the results are highly erratic. The taxable value for some properties declined while others increased by more than a factor of 10. Worse, the rationale for the changes is not available. Fortunately, data on what the county thinks each property has been worth dating back to 2020 is available on the web. This information can be accessed in two ways:
- Go to “JacksonGov.org“, then click “Research a tax account” in the middle of that page. There you can search for the name of a business or person who may own property, or by street address or by parcel number.
- If that fails, do a web search for “parcel viewer for Jackson County, Missouri“. That should identify a web site that gives you a map of Jackson County, and you can zoom into any place you want. If you zoom in far enough, you should see individual parcels. Clicking on most parcels will give you the square footage for the property as well as any buildings, plus what the county thinks is the market value, the assessed value and the taxable value each year between 2020 and 2023, and who owns it. However, there have long been major differences between these numbers and the value of actual sales. This fact has allowed the county to increase some values by more than double and still have values well below the sale price of comparable properties. Some real estate belonging to a nonprofit had a taxable value of zero, which was canceled without explanation, leading to a huge increase in their tax bill. This parcel viewer can be difficult to use for a condominium. For that, it may be better to search by the name of the owner via “JacksonGov.org”, as mentioned above.
HOW TO APPEAL A REASSESSMENT
July 10 is the deadline for Jackson County homeowners to appeal reassessments. Jackson County has an automated online appeal filing system available via their website.7 If you cannot find that, email [email protected] or call 816-881-3309.
The widespread concerns expressed about this reassessment process suggests it could provide a fertile ground for a populist taxpayers revolt secretly crafted and managed to benefit the vulture capitalists at the expense of common folk, similar to the 1978 California Proposition 13. That initiative petition limited reassessments to cost of living adjustments except when property was sold. Over time, that gradually shifted the tax burden to homeowners, increasingly exempting commercial real estate that was owned by corporations. (The ownership of a corporation could be transferred without an official change of ownership of the real estate.)
Two fairly recent books provide careful documentation of money is transferred from the poor and middle class to the ultra wealthy. In 2019 Aaron Glantz published a book entitled, Homewreckers: How a gang of Wall Street kingpins, hedge fund magnates, crooked banks, and vulture capitalists suckered millions out of their homes and demolished the American dream.8 This primarily focuses on the 2007-2008 financial crisis and how the government managed that crisis to give million dollar bonuses to the major bankers, who had created the crisis, while also depriving millions of people of their homes. And just over two months ago, a book by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner appeared describing, These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs―and Wrecks―America.9 Neither book directly address property taxes, but they do document ways in which government policies transfer wealth from the poor and middle class to the ultra-wealthy, money that could help drive the increases in real estate values we’ve seen in recent decades.
- Per “https://www.jacksongov.org/Jobs“, accessed 2023-06-27.
- Seth Williams, “A Map of Every Non-Disclosure State in the U.S. – And How Real Estate Investors Can Deal With Them“, R.E.Tipster (undated, “https://retipster.com/non-disclosure-states-map/”, accessed 2023-06-27).
- “Property Data” in “jocogov.org” (https://www.jocogov.org/department/appraiser/property-data, accessed 2023-06-27).
- Jennifer Kepler (2021-01-12) “Missouri’s Second-Largest County Selects Tyler Technologies’ Appraisal Software and Services“, Nasdaq (https://www.nasdaq.com/press-release/missouris-second-largest-county-selects-tyler-technologies-appraisal-software-and, accessed 2023-06-27).
- Summarized in the “Controversies” section of the Wikipedia article on “Tyler Technologies”, accessed 2023-06-27.
- Wikipedia, “1978 California Proposition 13“, accessed 2023-07-01.
- https://www.jacksongov.org/Government/Boards-Commissions/Board-of-Equalization/Board-of-Equalization-Appeals, accessed 2023-07-02.
- Aaron Glantz (2019) Homewreckers: How a gang of Wall Street kingpins, hedge fund magnates, crooked banks, and vulture capitalists suckered millions out of their homes and demolished the American dream (Custom House).
- Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner (2023) These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs―and Wrecks―America (Simon and Schuster)
Copyright 2023 Justin Williams, Mark Maschger, and Spencer Graves Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 international license