STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|KELLIE PASTERNAK||)||Appeal No. 19-84003|
|DAN WARD, ASSESSOR,||)
|ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Kellie Pasternak (Complainant) appeals the determination of the St. Francois County Board of Equalization (BOE) that the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $215,100. Dan Ward (Respondent), Assessor of St. Francois County, Missouri, initially determined the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $222,340. Complainant claims the property was overvalued and that she was subject to discrimination.
The hearing officer conducted an evidentiary hearing. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation or discrimination. The determination of the BOE is affirmed.
FINDINGS OF FACT
A. The Subject Property
1. The subject residential property is located at 15 McClanahan, Farmington, Missouri. The parcel number is 09-20-3B-00-000-002.08.
2. The subject property consists of an approximately 3.2 acre lot, a 2,176 square foot house, and a 2-car attached garage.
3. The house was constructed in 1997. The external walls are brick and vinyl. There are 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. There is one fireplace.
4. The home was purchased by Complainant on 4/28/2017 for $239,00
B. The BOE Decision
5. The BOE reduced the property from $222,340 to $215,100.
C. Complainant’s Appeal
6. Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission (Commission).
7. Complainant alleged the subject property was overvalued and that she was subjected to discrimination.
D. Overvaluation & Discrimination Claims
8. Complainant submitted exhibits A & B. Each exhibit was admitted into evidence without objection. Complainant’s exhibits were as follows:
|Exhibit A||Spreadsheet of 18 Homes on Complainant’s Road with Individual Documents|
|Exhibit B||Original Home Plans|
Exhibit A is a list of all 18 homes on McClanahan Road, Farmington, MO. The spreadsheet list the year built, acres, prior year value, current value, whether the value increased or decreased, and the amount of any such increase or decrease. The individual documents show the particular characteristics of each of the 18 homes.
Exhibit B contains the original drawings of the home plans.
- Complainant testified the subject property was the only property out of 18 homes on her street to have its value increased.
- Complainant presented no evidence of an intentional plan by Respondent to assess the subject property at a greater percentage of value than other residential properties in St. Francois County. Complainant presented no evidence of the overall assessment ratio of residential property in St. Francois County.
- Respondent submitted Exhibits 1-8. Each exhibit was admitted into evidence without objection. Respondent’s exhibits were as follows:
|Exhibit 2||BOE Appeal|
|Exhibit 3||BOE Notes & Minutes|
|Exhibit 4||BOE Decision|
|Exhibit 5||Sales Letter Re: Subject Property|
|Exhibit 6||2018 & 2019 Values|
|Exhibit 7||Property Record Card of Subject Property|
12. Respondent offered Exhibit 5 to show that the subject property was purchased by Complainant on April 28, 2017 for $239,000. He testified that the parcel was part of a residential sales study, where St. Francois County was found to be out of compliance. He testified that the subject property was reviewed. Respondent determined that the subject property was originally believed to have an unfinished basement, but that he was informed it is partially finished. He testified the property value was raised.
13. The true value in money of the subject property as of January 1, 2019 is $215,100. The assessed value of such is $40,870.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The Commission has authority, “under such rules as may be prescribed by law, to hear appeals from local boards in individual cases and, upon such appeal, to correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious.” Mo. Const. art. X, § 14. Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000, authorizes the Commission to hear appeals concerning assessment, valuation, the method or formula used in determining valuation, or the assignment of a discriminatory assessment. “The commission shall investigate all such appeals and shall correct any assessment or valuation which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Id. “To hear and decide appeals pursuant to section 138.430, the commission shall appoint one or more hearing officers.” Section 138.431.1. 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.” Section 138.431.5.
- True Value in Money
All real property and tangible personal property must be assessed at its value or a percentage of its value as fixed by law for each class and for each subclass. Mo. Const. art. X, sec. 4(a), 4(b). Section 137.115.5(1) (a) provides residential property is assessed at 19% of its true value in money. The true value in money “is an estimate of the fair market value on the valuation date.” Hermel, Inc. v. State Tax Comm’n, 564 S.W.2d 888, 897 (Mo. banc 1978). The fair market value is “the price which the property would bring from a willing buyer when offered for sale by a willing seller.” Mo. Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Comm’n, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo. banc 1993). Determining the true value in money is a factual issue. Parker v. Doe Run Co., 553 S.W.3d 356, 360 (Mo. App. 2018).
- Evidentiary Standards
The hearing officer is the trier of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence. Citizens for Rural Pres., Inc. v. Robinett, 648 S.W.2d 117, 132 (Mo. App. 1982); see also Exch. Bank of Mo. v. Gerlt, 367 S.W.3d 132, 136 (Mo. App. 2012) (the trier of fact determines credibility and is free to disbelieve all or part of a party’s evidence). The hearing officer is not bound by any single formula, rule or method in determining true value in money, and “is free to consider all pertinent facts and estimates and give them such weight as reasonably they may be deemed entitled to.” St. Louis Cty. v. State Tax Comm’n, 515 S.W.2d 446, 450 (Mo. 1974); see also Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. 2015) (the relative weight of any relevant factor is for the administrative hearing officer to decide). “Although technical rules of evidence are not controlling in administrative hearings, fundamental rules of evidence are applicable.” Mo. Church of Scientology v. State Tax Comm’n, 560 S.W.2d 837, 839 (Mo. banc 1977).
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof
A taxpayer challenging the assessment, valuation, the method or formula used in determining valuation, or the assignment of a discriminatory assessment bears the burden of proving the assessment or valuation was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Section 138.430.1; Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. 2003).
Substantial evidence is evidence which “has probative force upon the issues . . . and from which the trier of fact can reasonably decide the case on the fact issues.” Cupples Hesse, 329 S.W.2d at 702 (internal quotation omitted). To prevail, the taxpayer must produce “persuasive” evidence sufficient to convince the trier the disputed fact has been established. White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010); see also Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. 2002) (evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact”).
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence to establish the true value in money of the subject property. The value of other properties is not an accurate indicator of the value of the subject property, unless appropriate adjustments are made for the different characteristics of the other properties compared to the subject property.
The Hearing Officer understands Complainant’s discrimination claim to essentially be an assertion of inequity in assessments, based upon the valuations of the other properties on her particular street in Farmington, MO. Complainant offered no evidence of the average assessment ratio of the same class of property as the subject, in St. Francois County. The United States and Missouri constitutions prohibit discriminatory taxation of similarly situated taxpayers. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Mo Const. art. X, § 3. “A taxpayer has the right to have his assessment reduced to the percentage of that value at which others are taxed. . . .” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 79 (Mo. banc 1986) (internal quotation omitted). Absent proof of intentional discrimination, the analysis of discrimination claims compares the assessment level of similarly situated properties to the actual assessment level for the subject property. Id. at 78.
There was no evidence of an intentional plan of discrimination or of the average or median assessment level of similarly situated residential properties in St. Francois County. Complainant’s discrimination claim is denied.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The determination of the BOE is affirmed. The true value in money of the subject property as of January 1, 2019 is $215,100. The assessed value of such is $40,870.
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, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, and a copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.
Failure to state the specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.
The Collector of St. Francois 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 13th day of December, 2019.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
John J. Treu
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
I certify that on December 13th, 2019, a copy of the foregoing was sent via email to
 All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.