Saturday, March 20, 2010

JAN MEES: Takes our "Assessor Awareness" Test

JAN MEES:  Takes our "Assessor Awareness" Test
INSTRUCTIONS:  As a current or aspiring member of the school board, you should know what your biggest payor -- the Boone County Assessor -- is doing with the real estate he values for property tax purposes.  This exercise is designed to build awareness in that regard.  [Correct answers, if needed, are in brackets]. 
School board president and candidate Jan Mees (above, center, Missourian photo) answered the questions (Q) following each instruction. 
1)  Go to Mill Creek Elementary, on the corner of Nifong and Sinclair.  Directly across from the school, also on Sinclair and Nifong, you will see a large parcel of vacant land.  Do not go onto the property
Q:   Is the land being farmed, in any way, from what you can see from the two roads?
Mees:  I see no evidence of farming. 
2)   About this parcel, use the following web addresses to answer the questions.  The Map It function on the first website provides an aerial overview.  Make sure the links aren't broken or cut and paste if they don't work.  You can also click through to the Deed of Trust on the County Recorder's site if that link won't work. 
Q:  From the assessor's website, how large is this parcel, in acres?    
Mees:  133 acres   
Q:  Who owns this land? 
Mees:  Local residents  [E. Stanley and Ann Kroenke]
Q:  From the Deed of Trust, what did the owners pay for it in 1998? 
Mees:  $1,915,200.00
Q:   What does the Boone County assessor say the land is worth today (current appraised value)?
Mees:  $40,030.00
Q:  What did the owners pay in 2009 property taxes on this land? 
Mees:  $278.00
Q:  Knowing this, how do you explain a levy increase to a taxpayer or a pay cut to a teacher?
Mees:  From this exercise, one is led to conclude that there are inconsistencies, discrepancies, or inequities in the valuations and taxes assessed on some properties.  But there are state laws and statutes regulating this valuation process.  School Boards do not take part in determining property value. 
Use the County Assessor websites to answer the questions that follow.  
Case #1 -- Crown Center Farms
Q:  What do you know about the owners of Crown Center Farms? 
Mees:  I omitted the names of property owners.  [The Wal-Mart heir Laurie family owns Crown Center Farms].
Q:  How large is this parcel?
Mees:  0.6 acres 
Q:  What did the owner pay in property taxes on the parcel in 2009?
Mees:  $2.54   
Q:  Knowing this, how do you explain a levy increase to a taxpayer or a pay cut to a teacher? 
Mees:   This assignment has selected only a few of the thousands of properties within the Columbia Public School district.  I am not sure anyone in Boone County wants a School Board reviewing everyone’s property valuations and contesting each one suspected of being too low.   This seems a poor way to generate funds, if that is the purpose. 
When a school district and its school board determine a need for funds, they propose an increase in the tax levy.  A proposed tax levy increase is placed on a ballot for the voters to decide.  That’s how school districts get increased revenues from property owners.
Case #2 -- Last vacant parcel in Thornbrook subdivision
Q:  Use "Map It" to view an aerial shot of the parcel.  What stands out about the parcel? 
Mees:  It's in Thornbrook  [There's a paved, concrete cul-de-sac on it]. 
Q:  The City of Columbia has the parcel zoned "Residential."  How does the County Assessor classify it?
Mees:  Not sure how it is classified – Land in Limits?  [County Assessor says it's Farmland].
Q:  How large is the parcel (in acres)? 
Mees:  18.2 acres   
Q:  What did the owners pay in property taxes on the parcel in 2009?
Mees:  $50.06
Q:  Knowing this, how do you explain a levy increase to a taxpayer or a pay cut to a teacher?
Mees:   I confess, as a trained school librarian, I am not intimately knowledgeable about the state laws and regulations or findings by our state courts that guide the activities of Missouri’s county assessors.   My belief is Boone County’s assessor is abiding by the laws of our state.  
Case #3 -- Million dollar McMansions
Compare the following three McMANSIONS FOR SALE (1st link) with their "current appraised" values on the assessor's website (2nd link). 
Q:  TRUE or FALSE:  In each case, the assessor's appraised value is at least one million dollars lower than the asking price, and in one case, the assessor's appraised value is nearly $3 million lower than the asking price. 
Mees:  TRUE.  The appraised valued is less than the asking price in each case.   But who knows what the homes will sell for?
Q:  How large is the parcel in acres?
Mees:   1.4 acres
Mees:  $1,228,392.00
Q:  What is the parcel's "current appraised" value, according to the County Assessor?
Mees:   $182,392.00
Q:  What did the owners pay in 2009 property taxes on the parcel?
Mees:  $1,320.32
Q:  According to the sales listing, what is the parcel "ideal" for?  Who are some of its neighbors? 
Mees:  Restaurant or commercial use  [Neighbors include all the shops at Broadway Bluffs].
MULTIPLE CHOICE EXTRA CREDIT -- Broadway Bluffs parcel
If the assessor had valued the property at what the owner says its worth and according to its commercial zoning, about how much property tax did Columbia Public Schools lose on the Broadway Bluff parcel in 2009?    Use the answer to question #9 on this website to calculate your guesstimate:
1)  $1,300
2)  $1,000,000
3)  $21,000
4)  No loss.  The property is valued fairly.
Mees:  Not sure!   [The correct answer is 3 -- $21,000]
The Columbia Heart Beat would like to thank Jan Mees for taking the time to take our test.  On the facts of record, she passed with flying colors.  Her opinions were well-considered and thoughtful.    
Mees:   I do appreciate your obvious concern for Columbia’s schools and the need for adequate funding. 


  1. I spent 12+ years working for the Missouri Tax Commission as a field appraiser. The appraisal work was interesting but the political wars led me to leave the job.

    If a County Assessor has some influence in Jefferson City, he/she can assess without regard to equity or state laws.

    I attempted to bring some reality and fairness to vacant land valuations in Boone County, but found I was just beating my head aginst a wall.

    I gave up, because no one seemed to care when school funding and taxes were plentiful.

    I am glad to see that perhaps now someone is paying attention.