KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Jackson County, Missouri, Assessor stood by her work leading the county’s valuation process in 2023 during a sit-down interview with KSHB 41 News Wednesday.
Gail McCann Beatty pointed to a legal victory with the Missouri Supreme Court and poked holes at a preliminary report from the state auditor. She believes her office is following state law despite a new lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General saying the opposite. Despite all the challenges, Beatty said she has no desire to quit the job she’s had since 2018.
“I love this job. I love working with the people. I love appraising. I want to make sure Jackson County’s values are where they should be and everybody is paying their fair share,” Beatty said.
Missouri Supreme Court victory
Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court released opinions in two cases which back Jackson County. One opinion dismissed a class action lawsuit from property owners who sued the county after receiving high assessments this summer. The court said property owners should’ve navigated the county’s appeals process before filing a lawsuit.
“It reaffirms there is a process in place for property owners to follow if they have a disagreement with our property values,” Beatty said.
The court’s opinion did not rule whether Jackson County’s process follows state laws.
The second opinion cleared Tyler Technologies, a contractor of the county, from owing plaintiffs a “duty of care.” Basically ruling Tyler is liable only to the county which hired it.
Missouri Auditor’s report
Monday, Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick released a preliminary report saying Beatty’s office missed deadlines and failed to notify property owners of their rights when they receive an assessment of 15 percent or more. The auditor recommended many fixes including retroactively capping increases at 15 percent.
“First of all, I have no authority to do that. Neither does the auditor,” Beatty said. “Quite frankly, again, this is a preliminary report. We’re still having conversations with the auditor’s office, we’re still providing them more information to help them understand our process better.”
Beatty said the auditor’s office lacks familiarity with assessment procedures.
The auditor said Beatty’s office failed to properly inspect properties which had increases in valuation of more than 15 percent. Beatty claims her team visited every parcel before June 15, 2023 for an external inspection. The visits included a questionnaire for the property owner to fill out on the spot or via mail or a website. The assessor’s office used information from the questionnaire before issuing valuations.
“We don’t claim that we’re perfect, but we do want people to participate in the process. I’ve always said this is a partnership between assessment and property owners,” Beatty said.
State law says assessments have to reach property owners by June 15. The auditor and others say not every owner received that notice of assessment on time.
“I think the majority of folks got theirs on time,” Beatty admitted. “There are certain things we don’t control and that is when our post office delivers. And as we know the post office hasn’t been as reliable as it once was.”
Beatty also believes the auditor is confused about when follow up inspections take place. Beatty said 6,000 people requested interior inspections after receiving their new assessment.
Attorney General’s lawsuit
Attorney General Andrew Bailey filed a lawsuit Tuesday. It argues the county failed to abide by several state laws resulting in overpriced valuations, which leads to higher tax bills. The lawsuit asks a judge to get rid of all assessment increases, which would lower tax bills for those property owners.
“I certainly don’t have a crystal ball,” Beatty said. “I can tell you we had a number of lawsuits filed in 2019 and we’ve been successful in all of our lawsuits. Our office does everything it can to follow the state statutes.”
Property owners filed a record 54,539 appeals of their assessments. As of last week, the department has 14,000 appeals left to process. Beatty said she’s dedicated to completing all the appeals, but admits it will take into the new year to complete them.
Property owners should pay their property tax by the Dec. 31, 2023 deadline to avoid late fees. If they win their appeal and end up with a lower tax bill, the county will refund any overages with interest.
One attorney recommended property owners pay their taxes using a legal strategy called under protest.