STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-20002|
|v.||)||Parcel No. 6324-00-0060-0|
|MICHAEL DAUPHIN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|CITY OF ST. LOUIS MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Gary Steffens (Complainant) appeals the City of St. Louis Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $330,000, with an assessed value of $62,700. Complainant claims the property is overvalued, and proposes a value of $293,000.
The hearing officer conducted an evidentiary hearing. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is AFFIRMED.
FINDINGS OF FACT
A. The Subject Property
1. The subject property is located at 62 Willmore Road in the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 6324-00-0060-0.
2. The subject property is in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood. It consists of a single story, single family brick home with approximately 1,867 square feet of living area, a 132 square foot room addition, an attached two car garage, and a partially unfinished basement.
B. Respondent’s Valuation
3. Respondent determined the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $392,000. Respondent assessed the subject property at the 19% statutory residential rate, yielding an assessed value of $74,480.
4. The 2019 assessment increased the value of the subject property by $99,000 relative to the 2017 assessment, which valued the property at $293,000.
C. BOE Decision
5. The BOE determined the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $330,000, with an assessed value of $62,700.
D. Complainant’s Appeal
6. Complainant timely appealed the BOE decision to the State Tax Commission (Commission).
7. Complainant claims the subject property is overvalued. Complainant alleges the fair market value of the subject property is $293,000.
E. Complainant’s Evidence
8. Complainant submitted exhibits A-D. Exhibit A is a printout of a map from Respondent’s website. The map depicts the general location of the subject property.
9. Exhibit B is a one page, written explanation from Complainant to Respondent’s office explaining Complainant’s objection to the increased assessment. Consistent with Complainant’s testimony at the evidentiary hearing, exhibit B indicates Respondent’s 2019 assessment of five other properties on Willmore Road increased by no more than 3% above the 2017 assessment, while the subject property’s assessment increased by approximately 34%.
10. Exhibit C consists of information for residential property located at 6746 High Circle. The first three pages consist of land use, assessment, and sales information from Respondent’s official website. The first three pages of exhibit C show Respondent’s 2019 assessment placed the fair market value of 6746 High Circle at $373,900. The remaining eight pages of exhibit C consist of photos and property data from the redfin.com website. Exhibit C was admitted into the record, subject to Respondent’s objection that the eight pages from the redfin.com website lacked a sufficient factual foundation.
11. Exhibit D consists of land use, assessment, and sales information for the subject property and thirteen nearby residential properties. The information was printed from Respondent’s official website. Exhibit D was admitted into evidence.
12. The following table summarizes Respondent’s assessment data as set forth in exhibit D:
Property Address 2019 Appraised Value Prior Appraised Value
|55 Willmore Road||$256,300||$252,700|
|57 Willmore Road||$246,100||$238,700|
|63 Willmore Road||$334,000||$325,000|
|64 Willmore Road||$268,700||$259,500|
|66 Willmore Road||$351,100||$344,700|
|68 Willmore Road||$499,700||$437,100|
|69 Willmore Road||$356,000||$345,700|
|71 Willmore Road||$331,600||$325,900|
|73 Willmore Road||$279,200||$277,800|
|78 Willmore Road||$362,300||$354,200|
|79 Willmore Road||$251,900||$249,300|
|83 Willmore Road||$255,600||$251,000|
|85 Willmore Road||$400,200||$390,200|
13. Exhibit D shows Respondent’s 2019 assessment increased the appraised value of the listed properties between 1.5% and 14% above the prior assessment. The average appraised value for the properties in exhibit D is $322,520. The median is $331,600. The $330,000 value assigned to the subject property by the BOE is consistent with the average and median appraised values for the properties listed in exhibit D.
F. Respondent’s Evidence
14. Respondent submitted exhibits 1 and 2. Exhibit 1 lists the qualifications of Respondent’s staff appraiser who prepared a sales comparison grid for the subject property. Exhibit 1 was admitted into evidence.
15. Exhibit 2 consists of the sales comparison grid prepared by Respondent’s staff appraiser. The sales comparison grid includes the property characteristics of the subject property and four comparable properties. The sales grid includes the recent sale prices of the four comparable properties and calculates the sale price per square foot. The grid does not make market based adjustments for differences between the properties. The most pertinent data from the sales grid is summarized by the following table:
Subject Comp. 1 Comp. 2 Comp. 3 Comp. 4
|62 Willmore Road||6056 Bishops Place||6747 High Circle||5 Willmore Road||21 Willmore Road|
|1,999 sq. ft.||1,870 sq. ft.||2,070 sq. ft.||1,305 sq. ft.||1,645 sq. ft.|
|$186,000 (5/23/1997)||$368,000 (12/14/2017)||$325,000 (5/21/2018)||$325,000
|$278,000 (6/26/2017; foreclosure sale)|
|$99.62 sq. ft.||$196.79 sq. ft.||$157.00 sq. ft.||$249.04 sq. ft.||$169.31 sq. ft.|
- The average sale price of the properties in Respondent’s exhibit 2 is $324,130. The median sale price is $325,000. The average and median sales prices of the comparable properties listed in exhibit 2 are consistent with the $330,000 value assigned to the subject property by the BOE.
- The average sale price per square foot of the four comparable properties is $192.94, with a median of $183.05. Dividing the BOE’s $330,000 value by the 1,999 square feet in the subject property (1867 sq. ft. + 132 sq. ft. addition), equates to $165.08 per square foot, which is less than the average and median sale price per square foot of the comparable properties listed in Exhibit 2.
- The TVM of the subject property is $330,000. The assessed value is $62,700.
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 authorizes the Commission to hear appeals concerning assessment, valuation, the method or formula used in determining valuation, or assignment of a discriminatory assessment. “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.
The hearing officer is the trier of fact and determines both 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). “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).
- 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, §§ 4(a), 4(b). Section 137.115.1 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). 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 accorded to any relevant factor is for the administrative hearing officer to decide).
- Burden of Proof
The taxpayer bears the burden of proving the BOE overvalued the subject property. Cupples Hesse Corp. v. State Tax Comm’n, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959). The BOE’s valuation is presumed correct, but the taxpayer may rebut this presumption by producing “substantial controverting evidence.” Hermel, 564 S.W.2d at 895 (internal quotation omitted). Substantial evidence is evidence which, if true, “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). If the taxpayer rebuts the BOE presumption with substantial evidence, “the burden of proof on the facts and inferences would still rest on petitioner, for it is the moving party seeking affirmative relief.” Id. To satisfy the burden of proof, the taxpayer’s evidence must be persuasive. Evidence satisfies the burden of persuasion if it is 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 prove overvaluation
Complainant relies on exhibits C and D to support his claim the fair market value of the subject property is $293,000, not $330,000 as set by the BOE. Complainant asserts overvaluation is proven by the fact Respondent’s 2019 assessment of the subject property increased by a larger percentage than the nearby properties listed in exhibits C and D. Complainant’s argument fails for at least three reasons.
First, Complainant’s argument is premised on comparing Respondent’s assessment of nearby properties with Respondent’s 2019 appraised value for the subject property. The BOE decision reducing the subject property’s value from $392,000 to $330,000 negated and replaced Respondent’s 2019 appraised value. The BOE’s $330,000 value determines Complainant’s tax liability for the subject property. The premise of Complainant’s overvaluation claim – that Respondent’s 2019 appraised value was excessive compared to nearby properties – fails because Respondent’s 2019 appraised value was negated and replaced by the BOE decision valuing the subject property at $330,000. Respondent’s 2019 appraised value is irrelevant.
Second, residential real property is typically valued with the comparable sales approach. “The comparable sales approach uses prices paid for similar properties in arms-length transactions and adjusts those prices to account for differences between the properties.” Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 347-48 (Mo. banc 2005) (internal quotation omitted). Rather than estimating the fair market value of the subject property with the market based comparable sales approach, Complainant asserts overvaluation is demonstrated by the fact Respondent’s assessment of the subject property increased by a greater amount than nearby properties. Respondent’s assessment is irrelevant because it was negated and replaced by the BOE decision. Further, Complainant’s comparison of the relative increase in assessments between the subject property and the properties listed in exhibits C and D shows only that the subject property’s assessment increased by a greater percentage than nearby properties. Comparing the relative increase in assessments between the subject property and nearby properties does not show the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019.
Complainant did not produce substantial evidence rebutting the BOE’s presumptively correct decision valuing the subject property at $330,000.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The fair market value of the subject property as of January 1, 2019 is $330,000. The assessed value is $62,700.
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 detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.” Section 138.432. The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov. A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.
The Collector of the City of St. Louis, 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.
SO ORDERED February, 25th, 2020.
Senior Hearing Officer
State Tax Commission
Certificate of Service
A copy of the foregoing was emailed on February 25th, 2020, to:
Complainant, Gary Steffens, firstname.lastname@example.org
Respondent, Michael Dauphin, City of St. Louis Assessor, email@example.com;
Counsel for Respondent, Chelsea Mannery, firstname.lastname@example.org
 Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel Chelsea Mannery.
 All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 In 1992, the General Assembly eliminated the statutory presumption in favor of the assessor’s valuation. Section 138.060.1 provides “[t]here shall be no presumption that the assessor’s valuation is correct.” The plain language of the statute negates the former presumption the assessor’s valuation is correct, but leaves intact the longstanding presumption the BOE’s valuation is correct. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 n.2 (Mo. App. 2008); see also Parker, 553 S.W.3d at 360.
 Section 138.060.1 provides the “board of equalization shall, in a summary way, determine all appeals from the valuation of property made by the assessor, and shall correct and adjust the assessment accordingly.” In pertinent part, section 138.060.2 provides “the assessor shall correct all erroneous assessments, and the clerk shall adjust the tax book according to the orders of such board and the orders of the state tax commission….” (Emphasis added). The BOE’s valuation is the value establishing Complainant’s tax liability.
 Complainant’s reliance on the fact Respondent increased the subject property’s assessment by a greater percentage than nearby properties has logical force only if one assumes Respondent accurately valued the nearby properties. Applying the logic of Complainant’s argument to the data in exhibits C and D shows Respondent valued 6746 High Circle at $373,900, while the median value of the nearby properties is $331,600. To the extent it is relevant, this data does not support Complainant’s argument the BOE’s $330,000 value is an overvaluation of the subject property.