The Swartz Report: 2019 Valuation and Tax Appeal Updates

Tax AppealI recently returned from a trip to Des Moines to visit a client, look at a property in booming Ankeny, IA and met with a fee appraiser hired to review a property. This trip allowed for several hours of windshield time to process the various events currently happening in the property tax world. I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring you up to date in jurisdictions where we represent many of our clients.

Jackson County, MO (Kansas City, MO)

After receiving several thousand appeals for both residential and commercial properties, the county has closed the opportunity to appeal the current 2019 valuation (taxpayers were given the opportunity to appeal the valuation until September 3rd).

Hearings are now being scheduled with the Board of Equalization and should last into the 2020 tax year. This could create issues for taxpayers who will not have a chance to have the case heard before the end of the year as taxpayers must pay their taxes under protest (property taxes are due by December 31, 2019). We will be offering suggestions and working with our clients on how to go through the process of paying taxes under protest, and the importance of doing so.

Not only will the taxes be paid under protest, but the taxpayer must indicate the value they believe is the correct value and the corresponding tax amount. The Jackson County Treasurer must escrow the difference between the taxes owed on the tax bill and the opinion of taxes owed determined by the taxpayer. The county treasurer may not release those funds until the appeal has been resolved.

We will work closely with our clients who currently have pending appeals in Jackson County as well as those who have questions. The tax bills will be issued in November, so it is important to note the taxes must be paid under protest as an appeal may be dismissed without proper documentation showing the tax amount being challenged.

Johnson County, KS

We have recently received decisions from the Small Claims Division of the Board of Tax Appeals (values under $3,000,000 and all residential values).

Early indications show Johnson County is a tough place to win an appeal at the initial levels of appeal. Many of our appeals will proceed to the Regular Division of the Board of Tax Appeals but will incur legal and 3rd party professional fees (appraisals) that make an appeal to the Regular Division challenging for many taxpayers. These additional fees may dissuade taxpayers from continuing with an appeal. We will work closely with our clients to determine the potential tax savings versus the cost to continue an appeal, as we pursue appeals beyond the Small Claims Division.

Colorado, Iowa and Missouri (excluding Jackson County)

The informal and local level of appeals has concluded with many local boards closing their respective review sessions in June and July.

These states reassess valuations every odd year, so the values currently in place will remain until the next reassessment date of January 1, 2021, unless there are physical changes to the property (demolition or new construction).

We represent client’s interests in most states across the country. If you have questions about the appeals process in where you own property, please reach out to me directly as I would be happy to update you with the local rules and timing for appeals.

As always, I thank you the opportunity to represent your interests. Please email me with any questions or concerns you may have –

The Swartz Report: Back in the Office and Celebrating Work Anniversaries

Don Swartz

Don Swartz

Well, it’s been just over 6 weeks since the accident and I thought I would provide an update of what has transpired since my last commentary. After I returned from Las Vegas, a CT scan was performed to determine the extent of the fluid build-up around my left lung. The scan was performed on a Friday afternoon in advance of my Monday appointment with the pulmonologist. I received a call on Saturday morning from the doctor requesting I meet him at the emergency room.

The doctor determined the large mass compressing my left lung had to be reduced. Over two liters of blood had surrounded my left lung and needed to be drained immediately. A chest tube was inserted and the fluid was quickly removed. However, I spent the next ten days (Sept. 27 – Aug 5th) in the hospital while the doctors monitored the large amounts fluid being continuously produced around the lung area.

Back in the Office

Over the past two weeks, I have started returning to the office for a few hours each day, spending the balance of the time working remotely from my home office. I continue to thank my clients, employees and friends for their patience and understanding as well as their encouragement. It certainly makes “work” seem like pleasure as opposed to being on my back all day. Next week I will meet with my shoulder specialist and my spine specialist. If everything looks in order, the back brace and arm sling will be a thing of the past by Labor Day weekend. I look forward to seeing the new “normal”.

Speaking of work, it is amazing the number of things you do in a day to keep a business running that seem so ordinary and second nature. However, when you are out of the day to day activity for several weeks, it feels like a mountain to climb.

Emails to respond to, telephone messages to return, payables to cover and receivables to collect (and invoices to issue 😊). While I truly appreciate my staff at both Swartz + Associates and Indurante & Associates, there are tasks as a small business owner I have always had the sole responsibility to manage and complete. The accident has taught me an important lesson – no matter how much you believe you delegate, there is always room to improve.

In many respects it is like watching your children grow and take on more responsibility. They will make mistakes but as long as they learn from them and handle the outcomes (good or bad), as a parent, that is everything you can ask for. I believe the same principles apply to an organization and I must allow my employees the opportunities to grow personally and professionally within the business.

As a nice segue to discuss opportunities, David Sukenik recently celebrated his third anniversary with the company.

David Sukenik

David Sukenik

How are we celebrating this work anniversary? David and I have decided he will be moving to Las Vegas and joining my team there. He will continue to work with his existing clients and review property tax assessments. Additionally, we are in the process of a major software system upgrade that will create greater efficiencies for our railcar clientele. This was one of my major goals after acquiring Indurante & Associates last September and having David agree to be a part of this upgrade is a great step for him as well as for the companies.

Did I mention he is from southern California? Being closer to his family does not hurt the cause, either. I know he will continue to thrive in this new capacity and look forward to seeing what the future holds. If you have commercial property in the Southwest, we may be in a position to better suit your needs than we have in previous years.

As always, I appreciate your business and continued support. If you are in need of property tax support, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation. Or, if you need a few ideas on how to pass the time recovering from injuries, I have a few thoughts on that as well 😊

The Swartz Report: Waking up in the Intensive Care Unit of the University Hospital.

Well, well, well… I had all these great ideas about this month’s blog; all the uncertainly surrounding the new valuations in Jackson County, MO; Nebraska appeals for June 30th; CO appeals as part of the bi-annual reassessment; 10th months into the new acquisition of Indurante & Associates, Inc. etc, etc…

Instead, life threw a curve ball at me while I was out visiting my office in Las Vegas.

I was there to visit my office and also connect with my longtime close friend, Joel Glass. Joel is a senior executive with the Orlando Magic and was with the team as part of the NBA Summer League. My goal was to work in the morning and spend the afternoons and evenings watching players attempt to make themselves worthy of an NBA roster spot. Monday went according to plan and we had a great day. Up close and personal with Bill Self, seeing Roy Williams and a variety of other college coaches as well as a quick look at future impact players in the League.

Tuesday morning, July 9th changed my life course.

Waking up in the hospitalI hired an Uber from my hotel to take me to my office. Along the way, we were hit by a car that chose to ignore a red light. Our car was significantly damaged and I remember nothing of the incident. The next thing I remember is waking up at some point on Thursday, July 11th in the Intensive Care Unit of the University Hospital.

Karen (who had flown in late Tuesday night) and Joel were in the room. I suffered some fairly serious injuries and two plus weeks later, I am finally back in Kansas City… several broken ribs, a broken right clavicle, separated shoulder, a fracture in my spine and a partially collapsed lung.

But that’s not the best part of the story….

People say I’m lucky, and you know what? I am lucky. I’m lucky to be a part of a wonderful community. A community that cares about others and is willing to do anything, ANYTHING, to help me and my family.

Waking up in the hospitalI’m lucky to have grade school friends check in from all across the country to see how I am doing. Texts, phone calls, emails – they were coming in fast and furious.

But that’s just getting started –  the number of friends we have met over the years; the Pembroke Community, the Jewish Community, the Oakwood Community, the Greater Kansas City community and all across the county (thru business connections and friendships), offers of support have flooded in.  It is truly unbelievable and actually overwhelming.

Hillary Clinton indicated, “It takes a Village” and she’s absolutely right. But it is more than taking a village to raise a child, it takes a village to learn what’s important in life. The presence of family and friends drives this point home and I will never take any of you for granted.


My goal is to reach out to everyone over the next several months and offer a personal thank you, but let me start by recognizing my “first responders”.

To my employees at Swartz + Associates, Inc. and Indurante & Associates, Inc. thank you for keeping things together and making the work seamless while checking on my well-being. I will continue to lean on you and have all the confidence now that we will continue to be successful.

To all of you who have reached out to offer your small part, thank you for the kind gestures. Whether providing meals, a car ride, a book to read or a place to stay, believe me when I say it is not unnoticed and greatly appreciated.

To all of our friends who have reached out with calls of support, messages, encouragement or just to listen – thank you so much. My heart is filled with joy (even if it is protected by broken ribs!)

And of course, my family.

My family, immediate and extended (including Joel) has been awesome. Daily calls to see how I am doing; securing travel plans back to Kansas City and just the overall love and support you have provided, truly unbelievable.

My kids, (who I promised I will be okay) have been great throughout the process, offering their encouragement in ways only children can and of course…

My wife, Karen. The love of my life. I can’t imagine any of this without her by my side. Taking the requisite notes, asking the questions of the doctors, making appointments, talking to the insurance companies, making sure I take the appropriate deep breaths and am constantly positioned correctly. 🙂

Mix that in with the world of law, and it’s just another day! HA!!!

I am fortunate to have each and every one of you in my life and I’m better for it. If ever you believe you don’t make a difference, you are 100% wrong. Everyone makes a difference and I am happy to convince you of that fact. My road to recovery is getting started and I want you to be sure to know you are a big part of the process.

Until next time… and yes, I appreciate the fact that there will be a next time.

The Swartz Report: What’s Your Elevator Speech?

Last month, I attended the Small Business Member Stand Up session with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. As I’ve previously mentioned, I try to participate in as many Chamber events as possible. This allows me to network with other business owners, learning about their business while I can educate others about my business.

I considered this past meeting to be the ultimate test of perfecting the “elevator speech”.

Elevator SpeechI believe most everyone is familiar with the term, but for those who are not, the elevator speech is a very brief overview of your business. If you were to hop on an elevator and someone asked you what you do for a living, your response is limited to the time you share on the ride, hence your “elevator speech”.

During the Stand Up session, each company was allowed one minute to talk about their business, services, etc. Due to the configuration of the room and the way the microphones were being passed, I was the lucky one to go… LAST (I promise, I did not sit in the corner seat of the last row!)

The obvious disadvantage of this situation? 40+ people had already talked before me and we were pushing the clock in terms of people needing to leave to start their day. Additionally, the others were becoming tuned out due to the sheer number of people in attendance. What to do, what to do…

Of course, one advantage was being able to refine my speech in my mind while listening to others.

Should I try to sprinkle in a little humor or does that detract from the time I have to talk about my company? Bullet points or sentences? Specifics or generalities? Can I talk about Kansas, Missouri or can I make time for both?

Ultimately, I went with straight talk; what I thought to be complete sentences and just sticking to general overview. “My name is Don Swartz, and my company assists owners of commercial real estate and business personal property to minimize their annual property tax liabilities. We work nationwide, but have particular emphasis in Kansas, Missouri and other states in the Midwest.”

Surprisingly, several people did not rush out when the session was over. People were actively seeking others who had said something that sparked an interest. I had two or three individuals approach me to discuss my business in further detail, and I sought out a particular company where I thought I could be of benefit to them on a specific issue. Overall, I believe the event was a success and I’m glad I was able to participate.

When was the last time you worked on your Elevator Speech?

Do your employees have one as well… and is it consistent with the message you are trying to deliver? You never know when opportunity knocks.

Speaking of Opportunity

Reassessment is upon us in Iowa, Missouri and Colorado. Values have not changed in these states since 1.1.17 and in this economy, you can bet values are on the rise.

Deadlines to appeal real estate:

Missouri – formal appeals to the county Board of Equalization is June 17, 2019

Colorado – formal online appeals need to be submitted online by June 3, 2019 or in the mail by June 1, 2019

Iowa- deadline has passed unless you have properties in Dallas and Polk Counties where they have extended the deadline to June 5th as a result of flooding earlier this spring.

Nebraska – deadline to appeal is June 30, 2019

Please contact me if you wish to discuss this or any other property tax matters.  As always thank you for your readership and interest.

Next month, we will be celebrating 5 years of Swartz + Associates, Inc. Unbelievable how fast the time has flown.

The Swartz Report: The Value of a Second Opinion

Last week, my wife and I had the unfortunate experience of having our sewer back up into our half bathroom in the basement and into a portion of our finished basement. While insurance will cover most of the damage and inconvenience of being out of the home for multiple days, it is the follow up work and proactive measures for preventative maintenance that I found quite alarming.

Our usual service providers could not get to us over the weekend so we contracted with a large, local service who regularly advertises on television and in print.

PlumbingAfter completion of the task at hand, the technician wanted to inspect the line from the house to the street to insure there was a clear pathway. As an expert in property tax valuations and not plumbing, I watched the screen as the technician propelled his camera through the 4 inch line to the street.

During this time, he pointed out several potential issues, including a possible crack in the clay piping, roots growing where seals had eroded and probable failure of the line in the not too distant future. The two options provided; tear up the driveway and front yard to replace the entire 90 feet of sewer line (at a cost north of $30,000) or create an epoxy liner within the current line that would create a “pipe within pipe”.  This would take place internally and would not cause any (or minimal damage) to the property. The estimate for this was significantly less but still into the five digits.

“We are available to start this in 3 days. Here are options for payment – let’s get started.”

Hmmmm, not so fast, as my wife and I needed to discuss the options. How could we invest this type of money without getting a second opinion? Consumers compare prices for cars, get second opinions for surgery and physical therapy, and if you are regular readers of my blog, multiple comparisons and review of colleges. Why not plumbing?

We have engaged two additional plumbing companies to review our sewer line and offer estimates. Bottom line –  the sewer line appears to be fine but an epoxy liner may not be a bad idea as a longer term solution. Regular annual cleaning (at a cost of $100) should keep things clear for years to come.


Counting MoneyGood question, and if you are an owner of commercial property, the idea of a second opinion should be top of mind.

If you feel your valuation is fair but are unsure, why not get a second opinion? Additionally, if you have a property that has not been challenged in several years, maybe it is time to have a fresh set of eyes on the property. Over the years, we have lost a few clients only for the sake of change. Luckily, we have increased our client base significantly over the years by offering our review, approaching a valuation with a different perspective.

For those owners of property in Iowa, Missouri and Colorado, this year is a revaluation year.

We have already seen double digit percent increases in Platte and Clay Counties (Jackson County has not issued values as of this writing). Polk County (Des Moines) has increased commercial values in excess of 7% in most areas and we’ll see what Colorado looks like when they issue their valuation in the next two weeks.

The concept of ad-valorem taxation is taxing a property “at value” and generally implies the “value in exchange” or “fair market value”. Taxpayers should pay their fair share, nothing more. Second opinions are the best way to insure you are paying your fair share.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing my blog.  I appreciate your responses and am available if you have any questions.

The Swartz Report: The Power of a Letter and a Postage Stamp

The Power of a Letter and StampIn today’s world of social media, emails and other methods of immediate communication, I thought it would be interesting to share a recent situation that proves telephone calls and personal meetings still have great value.

Two years ago, I sent out informational letters to owners of a certain type of property where I felt my company had certain expertise. While there was no initial response from the letter, I also did not have a plan of action for follow up. Typically, this is the end of the story, and a lesson about a strategy without follow up is not a strategy at all. That story about failure to follow through is for another day…

Recently, I received a call from a recipient of the letter who had kept it on file.

I was contacted to see if we would be interested in assisting in the review of the 2019 property tax valuations in Kansas City. Not only was I thrilled to receive the call, I was determined to not let this opportunity fizzle and proposed an in-person meeting to go over the property. However, the ownership group was located in Eastern Iowa and about six hours away from Kansas City. Undeterred, I felt this was a chance to meet in person, stop in Des Moines to meet with clients and former clients and stop and have dinner at the greatest University in the country (Go Hawkeyes!) with a high school and college friend.

What was the result?

They hired us to review their locations in three states. Additionally, an introduction was made to the owners of an adjacent property at one of their locations. After getting on the phone with the controller of the adjacent property, we determined that I had worked with his brother at CBIZ – MHM for 15 years. Not only that, the adjacent property owner has 100 locations across the country and was wondering if we would be interested in reviewing some of these as well. Hmmmmmm, sounds like a good option to me, and now a few of the properties are under our review.

But wait, there’s more.

Remember the stop in Des Moines? I contacted a former client we worked with several years ago and indicated I would be in town. I thought it would be a great chance to reconnect and just catch up on how things were going for each of us. Shortly after meeting, I received an email asking if we would be interested in proposing on work for 2019. Yesterday, we signed the deal!

A simple letter and a postage stamp I sent two years ago have turned into a review of properties in excess of 200 million dollars in value. This is a great lesson about the power of the letter and how the effort to meet in person and develop relationships can never be underestimated.

Oh and Carl, (my buddy in Iowa City) I’ll buy the next dinner as well! Looking forward to it.

The Swartz Report: Valuation Notices and Go Time

This weekend, my family is all together to celebrate my Aunt’s 90th birthday. As we get older, we certainly appreciate these opportunities and cherish the our times for good reasons; birthdays, weddings,  etc. When I was much younger, it always felt like we were getting together for events and I thought, “do we have to see everyone, again?” Of course, I wasn’t serious but I didn’t have the correct perspective on the importance of these celebrations.

Now, with kids on the east coast and nieces, nephews and other family members scattered across the country, we circle the calendar for these celebrations where we can meet, tell stories and hear of great tales. Such is the case this weekend. Congratulations, Aunt Kay, we are so happy to be a part of the weekend.

Don and Family Don and Family Don and Family

My wife and I always say we work hard so we can play hard to be able to attend such events. Well, now it’s that time of year to work hard!

Go TimeValuation Notices

  • Valuation notices were just issued this week in Johnson County, Kansas and the remainder of the counties will be issuing their notices at the end of the month.
  • Colorado, Iowa and Missouri have the opportunity to reassess real estate in 2019 for the next 2 years. It is safe to assume valuations are not decreasing.
  • Additionally, business personal property filing deadlines are quickly approaching with Michigan, New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.
  • Include our railcar filings for the first time since acquiring Indurante & Associates, Inc. and it is truly GO TIME.

I wouldn’t have it any other way and feel good knowing we have the experienced staff that has gone through the process several times over the years.

Below I have listed a few upcoming deadlines that may have relevance to you if you own property in these states.

State                Personal Property Deadline           Real Estate Deadline

Kansas            March 15                                             March 13 – (commercial) Johnson Cty | March 31 – remaining KS Counties

Missouri         March 1                                                3rd Monday in June

Oklahoma      March 15                                             Generally in June

Iowa                Not applicable – Exempt                 April 30

Colorado        April 15                                               May 31

Nebraska       May 1                                                   June 30

Arkansas       May 1                                                   Varies

I listed these deadlines last year and found this to be helpful for many of the readers.

We welcome the opportunity to represent your interests and look forward to working with our clients for another appeal season. Thank you for continuing to put your trust in Swartz + Associates.

The Swartz Report: Two Important Lessons from the KC Chamber Small Business Council Meeting

Don_Swartz 2Post written by Donald Swartz, President and Principal at Swartz + Associates, Inc. | Lover of Chiefs, Royals and golf | Avid “Cruiser” | Poker Enthusiast

I recently attended the quarterly Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council meeting.

Matt Condon, the current Chairman of the Board of the Chamber, spoke to us about the aspects of running a small business. During his presentation, there were two concepts I wrote down that stood out.

The first comment was a simple sentence.  “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Wow, how simple and how powerful is that?  For the next few minutes, I really didn’t listen to what he was saying because I was grasping this comment.

I immediately thought, “Have I been wasting my time with office planning meetings?  What about the strategic marketing 3 – 5 year plan and where we want to be as a company?”

I wouldn’t say panic settled in, but I kept thinking about this sentence and wondering if I was missing the boat?  “Culture eats strategy for lunch”, “Culture east strategy for lunch”…

The second concept which stayed with me throughout the remainder of Matt’s talk focused on the necessity of all employees to share and believe in your vision of what your company is doing.

If they don’t believe in the work product…if they aren’t working to reach the common goal…then they aren’t a fit for your company. They may be good workers and have the right skill set, but they may just not be the right employee for your company.

company cultureOn the drive back to my office and throughout the rest of the week, I repeatedly asked myself how this applied to my company.

Are we on the same page at work?

Have I created a good culture and work environment?

Does everyone share the vision and/or have they been a part of determining the vision?

Upon reflection, I feel good about where we are and where we’re going. Our culture is collaborative.

Everyone is free to speak their opinion (and they usually do).

Everyone has a responsibility to make the company better.

And everyone certainly believes in the product.

When all of these things are in place, the culture does, in fact, eat strategy for lunch.

All that said, we must continue to be strategic in our business plan. If the culture is great but we lose sight of the vision and the plan for the future, we will spin our wheels and ultimately not be successful. Without the vision and plan, culture and morale will decline and employees will ultimately not feel a part of the success. This is definitely a delicate balance.

The takeaway: I’m fully on board with creating and maintaining the best culture to allow our employees to succeed. It has truly allowed us to be successful as we start our fifth year in business. But I’m also mindful of continuing to build and implement our strategy and vision.

I’m appreciative of my employees, my clients, my family and my Advisory Board. They have allowed our company to flourish in the last four years of business.

I look forward to the next four (and more!) and will do everything I can to maintain the culture that has allowed us to succeed.