Maybe They Should Try Drive-By Assessments in Jackson County
Last week, the Kansas City Star ran an excellent story on radically higher property assessments in Kansas City. The key point is Jackson County went decades without properly assessing these people’s homes. Yes, the property owners benefited from lower assessments over that time, but now they are paying the price with dramatic increases in assessed valuations. While I understand the need to update assessed values, I hope someone in the Jackson County assessor’s office has been held responsible for letting these neighborhoods go so long without proper assessments.
In Saint Louis County, the assessor physically inspects every property over a six-year cycle. I was amazed to read that Jackson County let certain neighborhoods go so long without physical inspections. From the article:
[Jackson County Assessor Curtis] Koons, who came to Jackson County from Cass County in September 2007, said the last inspection of county residential properties was at least 14 years ago, and the last thorough physical inspection, where every house was measured, dated back at least 25 years.
I thought Jackson County was in violation of state law, but apparently it is not. Saint Louis County cites state law in support of its six-year inspection cycle, but apparently that law applies only to Saint Louis County. More precisely, it appears the six-year rule is part of the county’s assessment maintenance plan as approved by the state tax commission (I have requested a clarification, and will update this post with a comment when I receive an answer).
State law or not, allowing so many properties to go so long without an exterior physical inspection is crazy. You can accomplish a lot with a physical inspection just by viewing the home from the sidewalk and offering an interior inspection if the homeowner wants one — which they almost never do.
Jackson County’s plan to update its assessed values will eventually work out. By that I mean that in a few years when the entire county’s assessment schedule has been updated, tax rates can be equalized (i.e., lowered) to adjust for the higher assessments. But for now, the homeowners in this first round will see much higher assessments without corresponding decreases in rates, and the tax bills they receive in October will be killers.