STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-33010|
|)||Parcel/Locator No: 1230107015|
|Brent Johnson, Assessor,||)|
|Greene County, Missouri,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Anthony Burgstahler (Complainant) appeals the Greene County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $994,900. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $805,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Aaron Klusmeyer. The evidentiary hearing was conducted on January 27, 2022, via WebEx.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 1128 S. Pickwick Ave., in Springfield, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 1230107015.
The subject property consists of a .82 acre lot and a 112 year old residential single family home. The subject property is an 8,507 square foot two story brick exterior with five bedrooms, four and a half baths, a detached two car garage, and has four fireplaces. Complainant purchased the subject property approximately 25 years ago.
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $1,009,700. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $994,900.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant testified the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $805,000. Complainant submitted Exhibits A through P and the testimony of witness Curtis Koons. Complainant testified he has not listed the subject property for sale within the past three years and has made no improvements in the past two years. Complainant testified he has had no appraisal completed for the subject property. Complainant testified he is not an appraiser nor has he received appraisal training. Complainant testified he completed Exhibits A through P and submitted them based on the methods exacted by Greene County’s appraisal conducted by appraiser, Ms. Burnett. Complainant presented his evidence of MLS listings, property record cards, and newspaper articles for his chosen comparables and executed a sales analysis wherein he found the weighted average of the chosen sales to find his opinion of value for the subject property. (See Exhibit A, B)
Mr. Koons testified he is a Missouri certified appraiser and has experience in residential appraisal since 1996. Mr. Koons testified he reviewed Exhibits A and B submitted by the Complainant and drafted the letter that was in agreement with Complainant’s comparables and opinion of value of $805,000 (see Exhibit C). Mr. Koons testified he did not search for comparables and completed no appraisal of the subject property.
Complainant testified that he was in disagreement with the Appraisal submitted by Greene County as their Exhibit 1 and presented his Exhibits D through P in support of his modifications to the appraisal and his valuation. A summary of Complainant’s Evidence includes:
|B||Complainant’s Sales Comparison Analysis and Reconciliation of Complainant’s Comparables||Admitted|
|C||Letter from Curtis L. Koons, Missouri State General Certified Appraiser, regarding Complainant’s Comparables||Admitted|
|D||Greene County Assessor’s Appraisal of Real Property located at 1128 S. Pickwick Avenue as of January 1, 2021||Admitted|
|E||Modifications Proposed by Complainant to Greene County Assessor’s Appraisal of Real Property located at 1128 S. Pickwick Avenue||Admitted|
|F||Documents Supporting Proposed Modifications to Greene County’s Appraisal: Green County Residential Property Record Cards||Admitted|
|G||Documents Supporting Proposed Modifications to Greene County’s Appraisal: Listings for Comparables||Admitted|
|H||Documents Supporting Proposed Modifications to Greene County’s Appraisal: Additional Information||Admitted|
|I||Real Estate Value Change Notice and Revisions||Admitted|
|J||Comparing the Comparables||Admitted|
|K||1128 S. Pickwick Ave. Information||Admitted|
|L||Documents Supporting Proposed Modifications to Greene County’s Appraisal: Additional Information||Admitted|
|M||Greene County Residential Property Record Cards: 1100-1154 S. Pickwick Avenue||Admitted|
|N||Greene County Residential Property Record Cards: 1103-1133 S. Weller Avenue+1475 E. Catalpa St||Admitted|
|O||Charts: Assessed Value versus Time||Admitted|
|P||E-Mail from City of Springfield regarding Rountree and Delaware Neighborhood Service Areas (NSA)||Admitted|
Respondent’s counsel objected to Exhibits A through F and O on the basis of hearsay and lack of foundation. Respondent objected to the exhibits on the basis that an appraisal cannot be modified and Complainant is not an appraiser, which was overruled by the Hearing Officer as this is not a legal objection, but rather an objection to the content of the Exhibits and Testimony, which Respondent was able to query on cross-examination. The objections were overruled, and the Exhibits were admitted to be given the weight deemed appropriate.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted Exhibit 1 and the testimony of staff appraiser Sandra Burnett. Ms. Burnett is a Missouri certified residential real estate appraiser on staff for Greene County. Ms. Burnett testified she prepared Exhibit 1. Exhibit 1 utilizes the sales comparison approach to find the TVM on January 1, 2021, of the subject property is $995,000. Ms. Burnett chose three comparable sales and made market-based adjustments to those properties to account for the similarities and differences between the subject property and the comparables. The comparables are similar to the subject property in quality and type. Ms. Burnett testified that the subject property was unique and the comparables differed in age, size and location, but that the overall quality was the most important factor for comparison in her appraisal.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $994,900.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation
Pursuant to Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945 real property and tangible personal property is 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. Residential real property is assessed at 19% of its TVM as of January 1 of each odd-numbered year. Section 137.115.5(1)(a). “True value in money is the fair market value of the property on the valuation date, and is a function of its highest and best use, which is the use of the property which will produce the greatest return in the reasonably near future.” Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Mo. Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 346 (Mo. banc 2005) (internal quotation omitted). 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 TVM is a factual issue for the STC. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008). The “proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission.” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 75 (Mo. banc 1986).
“For purposes of levying property taxes, the value of real property is typically determined using one or more of three generally accepted approaches.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. The three generally accepted approaches are the cost approach, the income approach, and the comparable sales approach. Id. at 346-48; see also St. Louis Cty. v. Sec. Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977).
The comparable sales approach “is most appropriate when there is an active market for the type of property at issue such that sufficient data are available to make a comparative analysis.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348. For this reason, the comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential property. “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.” Id. at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted). “Comparable sales consist of evidence of sales reasonably related in time and distance and involve land comparable in character.” Id. at 348.
The hearing officer is the finder of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence. Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). The finder of fact in an administrative hearing determines the credibility and weight of expert testimony. Hornbeck v. Spectra Painting, Inc., 370 S.W.3d 624, 632 (Mo. banc 2012). “It is within the purview of the hearing officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 9 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). The hearing officer “may inquire of the owner of the property or of any other party to the appeal regarding any matter or issue relevant to the valuation, subclassification or assessment of the property.” Section 138.430.2. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Id.
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof
The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Rinehart v. Laclede Gas Co., 607 S.W.3d 220, 227 (Mo. App. W.D. 2020). To prove overvaluation, a taxpayer must rebut the BOE’s presumptively correct valuation and prove the “value that should have been placed on the property.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. The taxpayer’s evidence must be both “substantial and persuasive.” Id. “Substantial evidence is that 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.” Savage, 722 S.W.2d at 77 (internal quotation omitted). Evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact.” Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); see also White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010) (noting the burden of persuasion is the “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”). A taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the STC “in the nebulous twilight of speculation, conjecture and surmise.” See, Rossman v. G.G.C. Corp. of Missouri, 596 S.W.2d 469, 471 (Mo. App. 1980).
- Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation.
Complainant did not establish that the BOE valuation was erroneous. Mr. Burgstahler testified his home is overvalued due to errors in mass appraisal methods and he has completed no improvements to his property to justify the increase in value. Mr. Burgstahler testified the Respondent had various errors in Respondent’s appraisal (Exhibit 1), which resulted in overvaluation. Complainant’s Exhibit B calculated the alleged valuation of $805,000 through a sales analysis, by which Complainant adjusted sales prices and used those adjustments to find a “weighted average” of $762,500. In sum, Complainant’s Exhibits present no appraisal of the subject property, Complainant’s testimony confirms that he had no appraisal performed to determine a value of the subject property, and Mr. Koons’ testimony establishes that he did not conduct any appraisal to determine the TVM. (See Exhibits A-P) Complainant’s method of utilizing appraisal methods without having appraisal training or education does not provide a true and accurate method for finding the TVM of the subject property. The comparable sales approach is the method used to determine the TVM of the subject property. “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, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted). Exhibit B’s calculation and subsequent alleged TVM is not an appraisal utilizing the sales comparison approach. While a property owner’s opinion of value is generally admissible, the opinion “is without probative value where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.” Shelby Cty. R-IV Sch. Dist. v. Herman, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Mo. 1965); see also Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 349 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (noting a property owner’s opinion of value loses probative value when it rests on an improper foundation). Complainants’ testimony and Exhibits regarding valuation, while admissible, are based on improper elements and therefore are not substantial and persuasive evidence that the BOE’s valuation is erroneous.
Respondent, although not required to, presented persuasive evidence in support of the BOE’s valuation. Exhibit 1 and Ms. Burnett’s testimony that she selected three comparable sales and adjusted the sales prices based on similarities and differences to the subject property persuasively support the TVM of $994,900 determined by the BOE. Ms. Burnett’s opinion of value was $995,000. Her opinion was not used to advocate an increase in the assessed value of the subject property, but was used to support Respondent’s argument that the BOE’s valuation should be affirmed. Exhibit 1 is admissible as evidence for sustaining the value assigned by the BOE.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $994,900, with an assessed value of $189,031.
Application for Review
A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within 30 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, 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.
Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.
The Collector of Greene 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.
SO ORDERED March 25, 2022.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Erica M. Gage
Senior Hearing Officer
State Tax Commission
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on March 25th, 2022 to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 Complainant timely filed a complaint for review of assessment. The State Tax Commission (STC) has authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal. Mo. Const. art. X, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.