KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Missouri State Auditor has officially started an audit of the Jackson County Assessment Department as property owners saw their assessments skyrocket this year.

State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick said Friday that his office is reviewing the process Jackson County used to assess property values. The state’s audit of the Jackson County Assessment Department started Monday.

“Our team will conduct a thorough examination of the assessment process with a focus on the red flags and serious concerns raised by homeowners throughout Jackson County,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

Jackson County has come under criticism this year as residents saw their property values jump drastically — and then had difficulty going through the appeals process.

Fitzpatrick said his office will work as efficiently as possible, but he stressed that a comprehensive audit is a lengthy process and could take months to complete.

“We will work diligently and as quickly as we can to provide much-needed answers to the tens of thousands of concerned Jackson County homeowners,” he said.

The state auditor was already looking into complaints about Jackson County property assessments, launching an investigation back in August. But state law doesn’t allow the auditor’s office to initiate an audit of the county, Fitzpatrick said.

However, on Aug. 21, the Jackson County Legislature voted to invite the State Auditor’s Office to conduct an audit into the 2023 assessment process.

According to the assessor’s office, the average increase this year was 30%, but some owners said their assessments skyrocketed by more than 100%.

But Assessment Director Gail McCann Beatty has previously said her department’s role is to place market value on properties, according to state statute, and any property owner that disagrees with that value can appeal.

Three cities — Lee’s Summit, Independence and Blue Springs — have already filed lawsuits against Jackson County, accusing the county of breaking state law in its property assessments.

Lee’s Summit leaders said the county increased property assessments beyond the allowable percentage, failed to notify property owners of increases, failed to perform required property inspections and failed to correctly and timely account for new construction.

Jackson County property owners can provide confidential information for the audit by calling the State Auditor’s Whistleblower Hotline at 800-347-8597, by email at moaudit@auditor.mo.gov or by visiting auditor.mo.gov/hotline.