The Jackson County assessment process is “deeply flawed,” Gail McCann Beatty, its director of assessment, conceded before a House committee Monday.
Many Jackson County residents have seen dramatic increases in property value assessments in recent months — raising concerns among senior citizens in particular about whether they can remain in their longtime homes.
Sitting before the House Interim Committee on Oversight of Local Taxation in the state Capitol Monday, McCann Beatty defended the assessments conducted under her tenure. She argued Jackson County properties “have been traditionally undervalued,” and she has needed to bring all properties up to market value.
McCann Beatty said she’s seen some properties be assessed and increase up to 400 percent. “I don’t think it’s any secret that the assessment process in Jackson County has been incredibly challenging,” McCann Beatty, who took over the job in July 2018, said.
She recounted one man’s property had been valued at around $92,000 when purchased in 2012, but it dropped to $38,000 when assessed in 2013. But under her tenure, it was assessed back to $90,000, causing a “shock” for the man.
Tens of thousands of appeals have flooded in following the assessments.
“I absolutely understand the taxpayer’s concern when a property increases that much,” she said. “But I also understand that I have a job to do, that state statute only gives me the option of reaching market value. The concern that I have is that everyone wanted me to either cap it or increase it over time, and there is nothing in the state statute that allows me to do that.”
Rep. Robert Sauls, a Democrat on the committee who represents a portion of Jackson County, said, “I know historically there have been some problems with Jackson County. But I think the Jackson County process has just been deeply flawed. And it kind of sounds like … do you agree?”
“I would not argue that point in the least,” McCann Beatty responded.
McCann Beatty is a former minority leader in the Missouri state House. She told lawmakers “past administrations” would reduce the increases “when certain communities complained about the assessment process.”
She also said she needs an updated camera system and dozens of additional employees in order to properly assess the county.
“My back was against the wall when we started,” she said.
St. Louis County Assessor Jake Zimmerman was also on hand Monday to testify during the hearing, which lasted about four hours.
House Speaker Elijah Haahr created the interim committee in July to evaluate local governments’ handling of taxes and assessments. Assistant Floor Leader J. Eggleston, a Republican, chairs the committee.
“Missourians across the state have raised serious concerns on how counties assess property tax values and the fairness of what is being taxed,” Haahr has previously said. “While the General Assembly continues to ensure Missourians keep more of their hard-earned money, we will remain vigilant that counties are not in return deviously raising Missourians’ taxes.”