Instituform Technologies Inc v. Jake Zimmerman, Assessor St. Louis County

May 3rd, 2016

State Tax Commission of Missouri



Complainant(s), )  
v. )  
Respondent. )  






Decision of the County Board of Equalization sustained the assessment made by the Assessor is AFFIRMED. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board of Equalization.

Complainants appeared by attorney James P Gamble.

Respondent appeared by attorney Priscilla Gunn.

Case heard and decided by Hearing Officer Maureen Monaghan.


Complainant appeals on the ground of misclassification, the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization, which classified the properties as commercial. The Commission takes this appeal to determine whether the land and any improvements other than structures should be classified as “agricultural and horticultural property” Section 137.016 RSMo

The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.


  1. Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper.  Complainants timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization.
  2. Evidentiary Hearing. The parties waived evidentiary hearing and submitted the appeal on exhibits and the briefs filed in Appeal No. 11-13465 et al.
  3. Identification and Description of Subject Properties.
  4. The properties are located within the boundaries of the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in St. Louis County;
  5. St. Louis County owns the airport operation;
  6. St Louis County owns land within the airport boundaries;
  7. Privately owned properties are found within the airport boundaries;
  8. Spirit of St Louis Airport was privately owned at one time;
  9. Spirit of St Louis Airport qualifies as a reliever airport under the National Plan of Integrated Airports System;
  10. The airport receives federal airport improvement project funds through the Federal Aviation Administration;
  11. Subject property, parcel number 17V120088,  is currently classified as commercial property with a true value of $610,370.  The property is approximately 3.395 acres.




The Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious. The Hearing Officer shall issue a decision and order affirming, modifying or reversing the determination of the Board of Equalization, and correcting any assessment which is unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary, or capricious.  Article X, Section 14, Mo. Const. of 1945; Sections 138.430, 138.431, 138.431.4, RSMo.

Basis of Assessment

            The Constitution mandates that real property and tangible personal property be assessed at its value or such percentage of its value as may be fixed by law for each class and for each subclass.  Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945.   The constitutional mandate is to find the true value in money for the property under appeal.  By statute real and tangible personal property are assessed at set percentages of true value in money. Section 137.115.5, RSMo – residential property at 19% of true value in money; commercial property at 32% of true value in money and agricultural property at 12% of true value in money.

Presumption In Appeal

There is a presumption of validity, good faith and correctness of assessment by the County Board of Equalization.  Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650, 656 (Mo. 1968); May Department Stores Co. v. STC, 308 S.W.2d 748, 759 (Mo. 1958).   This presumption is a rebuttable rather than a conclusive presumption.

Complainants’ Burden of Proof

In order to prevail, Complainants must present substantial and persuasive evidence that the proposed classification is correct. There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. The taxpayer in a Commission appeal still bears the burden of proof.  The taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief.   Therefore, the Complainant bears the burden of proving the vital elements of the case, i.e., the assessment was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” See, Westwood Partnership v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. 1991)

Agricultural and Horticultural Property

On January 1, 2011, Section 137.016. 1 RSMO stated: “As used in section 4(b) of article X of the Missouri Constitution, the following terms mean:

(1) “Agricultural and horticultural property”, all real property used for agricultural purposes and devoted primarily to the raising and harvesting of crops; to the feeding, breeding and management of livestock which shall include breeding, showing, and boarding of horses; to dairying, or to any other combination thereof; and buildings and structures customarily associated with farming, agricultural, and horticultural uses. Agricultural and horticultural property shall also include land devoted to and qualifying for payments or other compensation under a soil conservation or agricultural assistance program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government. Agricultural and horticultural property shall further include land and improvements, exclusive of structures, on privately owned airports that qualify as reliever airports under the Nation Plan of Integrated Airports System, to receive federal airport improvement project funds through the Federal Aviation Administration. Real property classified as forest croplands shall not be agricultural or horticultural property so long as it is classified as forest croplands and shall be taxed in accordance with the laws enacted to implement section 7 of article X of the Missouri Constitution;…” (emphasis added)


The issue in these appeals is whether the land and improvements, exclusive of structures, qualifies as agricultural and horticultural under Section 137.016 RSMo. The following is required under the statute:

  1. Land and improvements, exclusive of structures;
  2. Located on privately owned airports; and
  3. Airport qualifies as a reliever airport under Nation Plan of Integrated Airports System.

The issue in this appeal is whether the land and improvements, exclusive of structures, is located on a privately owned airport. The properties subject to these appeals are not located on a privately owned airport. The parties stipulated to the fact that St. Louis County owns the airport operation.

The Complainant argues that the property is private and on an airport that is a reliever airport and qualifies for funding under an improvement project. Complainant’s argument fails as the statute clearly states that the property must be located on a privately owned airport. Complainant’s attempt to argue the spirit of the legislation or public policy; however, Complainant’s have not established that the property is somehow used in airport operations.

Had the legislature wanted privately owned properties located at airports, whether publicly or privately owned, to be classified as agricultural properties it would have stated “privately owned land at airports” However, the statute reads privately owned airports – which does not include the Spirit of St. Louis after the acquisition by St. Louis County.



The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization for St. Louis County for the subject tax day is AFFIRMED

Application for Review

A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Decision. The application shall contain specific facts or law as grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.  Said application must be in writing addressed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, and a copy of said application must be sent to each person at the address listed below in the certificate of service.

          Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432, RSMo

Disputed Taxes

The Collector of St. Louis County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an Application for Review, unless said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of Section 139.031.8, RSMo.

Any Finding of Fact which is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed. Any Decision which is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.

SO ORDERED this 3rd day of May, 2016.


Maureen Monaghan

Hearing Officer



Delivery or Notice was made via mail, email, fax, or personally on May 3rd, 2016 to the following Individuals of this Order

James P Gamble, Attorney for Complainant,

Priscilla Gunn, Attorney for Respondent,

Jake Zimmerman, Assessor,

Mark Devore, Collector,


Jacklyn Wood

Legal Coordinator