STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|CHESTERFIELD VILLAGE, INC,||)||Appeals 15-13823 through 15-13825|
|CHESTERFIELD CENTER CORPORATION||)
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,
DECISION AND ORDER
The assessment made by the Board of Equalization of St. Louis County (BOE) is SET ASIDE. Chesterfield Village, Inc. and Chesterfield Center Corporation (Complainants) presented substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE. The classification, true value in money (TVM), and assessed value for the subject properties for tax years 2015 and 2016 are set as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Classification||TVM
Complainants appeared by counsel Jason Turk and Thomas Campbell.
Respondent Jake Zimmerman, St. Louis County Assessor, (Respondent) appeared by Counsel Jeremy Shook and Ed Corrigan.
The appeals were heard by Senior Hearing Officer Treu and Chief Counsel Maureen Monaghan and decided by Chief Counsel Maureen Monaghan (Hearing Officer).
Complainants appealed on the grounds of overvaluation, discrimination and classification. Respondent set the TVM of the subject properties and classified them as commercial. The BOE determined the TVM of the subject properties and classified them as commercial. The State Tax Commission (STC) takes this appeal to determine: (1) TVM for the subject property on January 1, 2015; (2) the proper classification of the property; and (3) whether there was an intentional plan by the assessing officials to assess the property under appeal at a ratio greater than 32% of TVM, or at a ratio grossly excessive to the average 2015 commercial assessment ratio for St. Louis County.
The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the STC from the decision of the BOE.
- Evidentiary Hearing. The parties were ordered to submit exhibits and written direct testimony (WDT) as to the valuation and assessment on or before August 16, 2016. The Complainants waived hearing on the issue of valuation on February 24, 2017 and the Respondent waived hearing on the issue of valuation on February 27, 2017. The issue of commercial ratio was presented at an evidentiary hearing on March 13-14, 2017, at 7733 Forsyth, Clayton, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject properties are identified by map parcel numbers or locator numbers:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.|
- Description of Subject Property. The subject properties are vacant land with no improvements. The soil is suitable for horticultural purposes. It suffers little from rocky conditions or erosion. A portion of two parcels is heavily wooded. Winter wheat is grown and harvested on the properties.
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Cleared Acres||Wooded Acres||Total Acres|
- Assessment. The properties were re-assessed in 2015. The prior assessment and the 2015 assessment for the properties is:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||2014 TVM||2014 Classification||2015 TVM||2015 Classification|
|15-13824||18S440148||$11,600||Agriculture||$1,596,200||Agricultural ($6,600) and Commercial ($1,589,600)|
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant offered into evidence the following exhibits as to valuation and classification:
|A||Aerial Photograph of the Subject Parcel|
|B||Photograph of the Subject Parcel and Assorted Receipts|
|C||Property Record Card|
|WDT||Written Direct Testimony (WDT) Randy Ruppel|
Respondent did not object to Exhibits A through C or the WDT and all were admitted into evidence.
Randy Ruppel (Ruppel) testified that he owns Ruppel Brothers Landscaping. He performs various landscaping services including custom farming. He described custom farming as farming land owned by others. All the crops grown and harvested on the land belongs to the owner of the land. He provides the equipment and services needed to grow and harvest crops.
Ruppel testified that he performs custom farming on the subject properties. He has performed such service for several years except for parcel 18S140420 (Appeal 15-13826). The parcel had a commercial building on it. The improvement was removed in 2014 and he began farming the entirety of the parcel at that time.
He grows winter wheat on the properties. He testified that he has the wheat planted by October and he will harvest it between June and July the following year. He planted winter wheat on the subject properties in October 2014. In July 2015, he harvested the wheat. He planted the wheat again in October 2015. Between planting and harvest, he attends the crops by inspection and fertilization.
He utilizes all the land for horticultural purposes except for any wooded area that is not suitable for growing crops. He describes the soil as being good and not rocky. The parcels suffer little from flooding or erosion.
The Complainant filed the following Exhibits as to discrimination, which were admitted into evidence:
|A||Written Direct Testimony of Robert Gloudemans|
|B||Written Direct Testimony of John Hottle|
|C||Commercial Ratio Study of Robert Gloudemans|
|D||Supplement to Appendix 2 of Exhibit C|
|E||Testimony of Robert Gloudemans|
|F||Testimony of John Hottle|
|G||Impact Notice 10L420653|
|H||Impact Notice 13K520081|
|I||Impact Notice 14N120030, Letters from Assessor|
|J||Impact Notice 15N130407, Letters from Assessor|
|K||Impact Notice 15K240583|
|L||BOE Decision 16M530069, Impact Notice|
|M||Impact Notice 16P610696, Letters from Assessor|
|N||Impact Notice 19Q140113|
|O||BOE Decision 21K331251, Impact Notice|
|P||BOE Decision 22S121644, Impact Notice|
|Q||Impact Notice 23S540286, Letters from Assessor|
|R||Impact Notice 28L640434|
|S||Impact Notice 29H210253, Letters from Assessor|
Robert Gloudemans (Gloudemans) is a partner in Almy, Gloudemans, Jacobs & Denne. He is a tax consultant specializing in property tax assessment administration and has been engaged in such work for over 40 years. (Exhibit A, pp 1-2) He was hired by Joseph C. Sansone Company to analyze the assessment of commercial property in St. Louis County for tax year 2015, more specifically, to determine the average level of assessment for commercial property as of January 1, 2015. (Exhibit A p.7) Gloudemans prepared a report of his findings. (Exhibit C)
To analyze the assessment of commercial property in St. Louis County for tax year 2015, Gloudemans used sales of commercial property in St. Louis County that occurred from July 2014 through June 2015. (Exhibit C p.1) The study utilized data from the St. Louis County Assessor’s Office regarding sales of commercial properties. (Exhibit C p.2) After narrowing the sales, the number of sales requiring validation was 585 sales involving 768 parcels. (Exhibit C p.2) The commercial sales were provided to Hottle for validation per IAAO standards. (Exhibit C p.3)
Hottle was provided with sales data obtained from the St. Louis County Assessor’s Office. Hottle worked with Gloudemans to ensure the sales validation process complied with IAAO standard for ratio studies. (Exhibit C p.3) Hottle Appraisal Company validated sales of commercial properties occurring in St. Louis County between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015. (Exhibit B) The process included verification from a party involved in the transaction, third party information as to the transaction, and evaluation of whether the sale was representative of typical market transactions based on property type and location. (Exhibit B p.5) Of the 585 sales requiring validation, 258 sales were found to be valid, arm’s-length transactions. (Exhibit C p.5)
Gloudemans used the validated sales for his analysis. (Exhibit C p.6) Two of the sales were removed from the study as “outliers,” one with a very low ratio and one with a very high ratio. (Exhibit C p. 9)
Gloudemans computed three measures of central tendency for his ratio study – the median, the mean and the weighted mean. (Exhibit C p. 9) The median is the middle number in a set of numbers. The mean is the average or the sum of the numbers divided by the total count of numbers. The weighted mean is the weighted average of the ratios when each ratio is weighted by its sale price, i.e., the sum of the assessed values divided by the sum of the TVM proxy (sale price).
Gloudemans reported the following findings for commercial assessments in St. Louis County in 2015:
Gloudemans found overall ratios of a mean of 1.003%, median of .959 and weighted mean of .812. In other words the measures indicate an assessment ratio of 32.09%, 30.69% and 25.98% depending on the measure of central tendency.
Gloudemans relied on the weighted mean as the most appropriate measure of the average level of assessment. Gloudemans recommended that the STC adopt a weighted mean of 26% as the average level of assessment of commercial property in St. Louis County in 2015.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered no evidence as to valuation or classification.
The Respondent filed the following Exhibits as to discrimination which were admitted into evidence:
|1||Testimony of Patrick O’Connor|
|2||Study of Patrick O’Connor|
|3||IAAO Standard on Ratio Studies|
|4||Spreadsheet – 145 sales used|
|5||2015 Ratio Study|
|6||Testimony of Steve Robertson|
|7||Spread sheet of sales from 1/1/15 to 12/31/15|
|8||Testimony of Sandy Youtzy|
|9||Testimony of John Gillick|
|10||CV of John Gillick|
|11||SLCo sale file of 18K310513|
|12A||SLCo sale file for 12M330315|
|12B||SLCo sale file for 12M330315|
|13||SLCo sale file for 13J330980.|
|14||SLCo sale file for 18K310997|
|15||SLCo sale file for 23T531199|
|16||SLCo sale file for 28P440441|
|17||SLCo sale file for 26G112010|
|18||SLCo sale file for 26K640466|
|19||SLCo sale file for 17N540851|
|20||SLCo sale file for 27K111697|
|21||SLCo sale file for 16H421088|
|22||SLCo sale file for 09N120191|
|23A||SLCo sale file for 17L441202|
|23B||SLCo sale file for 17L441202|
|24A||SLCo sale file for 24M221111|
|24B||SLCo sale file for 25M543135|
|25||SLCo sale file for 17N430563|
|26||Testimony of Patrick O’Connor|
|27||Sur-rebuttal Testimony of Steve Robertson|
|28||Sur-rebuttal Testimony of Sandy Youtzy|
|29||St. Louis County Board of Equalization Memorandum of Waiver, dated 8/28/15, as to Keefe|
Witness Patrick M. O’Conner (O’Connor) testified on behalf of the county. O’Conner is a Certified General Real Estate Appraiser. (Exhibit 1 p.1) He has been involved in mass appraisal since 1973. (Exhibit 1 p. 2)
He prepared a report involving:
- Sales ratio study as of January 1, 2015;
- Statistical review of a separate file of sales prices for commercial properties from 2011 through 2015;
- Application of direct market models to a sample of sold and unsold commercial properties as of the valuation date of January 1, 2015;
- Performance of a direct market model values-to sales prices ratio study on a sample of sold properties; and
- Performance of appraisal ratio studies of 2015 appraised-to-direct market model values on a sample of sold and unsold commercial properties. (Exhibit 2 p.1)
O’Connor’s ratio study used 145 commercial sales from the last three quarters of 2014 and the first three quarters of 2015. O’Connor determined the following:
|Assessment Ratio||Not Calculated|
O’Connor inadvertently used post-BOE TVM rather than Assessor’s value (pre-BOE) in his study on 13 of the 145 properties. The BOE adopted the sales price as TVM as to those properties. The result is a 1:1 ratio of sale price to BOE valuation. The use of the properties had no impact on the findings.
O’Connor found little indication of regressivity with the subclass of commercial properties in St. Louis County.
- Presumption of Correct Assessment Rebutted. Complainant presented substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE, establish the proper classification of the property was agricultural, and the TVM (productivity value) of the property, as of January 1, 2015, was as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Classification||TVM
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION
The STC has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious, including the application of any abatement. The Hearing Officer shall issue a decision and order affirming, modifying or reversing the determination of the BOE, 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.
There exists a presumption of correct assessment by the BOE – the BOE presumption. The BOE presumption operates in every case to require the taxpayer to present evidence to rebut it.
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 TVM for the property under appeal. By statute, real property and tangible personal property are assessed at set percentages of true value in money: residential property at 19%; commercial property at 32%; and agricultural property at 12%. Section 137.115.5 RSMo (2000) as amended.
Under Missouri statutory law, property shall be classified as agricultural and horticultural property when “real property [is] used for agricultural purposes and devoted primarily to the raising and harvesting of crops . . .” Section 137.016.1(2) RSMo. The classification is determined by the actual use put to the property. Northtown Village v. Don Davis, Assessor, Jasper County. Mo., Appeal No. 03-62558 (May 27, 2004).
Land devoted primarily to the raising and harvesting of crops is valued by its productivity value. The STC sets forth those valuations, based upon grades, in the Code of State Regulations. (12 CSR 30-4.010) The grade descriptions pertinent to this decision are:
“B) Grade #2. These soils are less desirable in one (1) or more respects than Grade #1 and require careful soil management, including some conservation practices on upland to prevent deterioration. This grade has a wide range of soils and minimum slopes (mostly zero to five percent (0–5%)) that result in less choice of either crops or management practices. Primarily bottomland and best upland soils. Limitations—
- Low to moderate susceptibility to erosion;
- Rare damaging overflows (once in five to ten (5–10) years); and
- Wetness correctable by drainage.
Use value: eight hundred fifty dollars ($850); …
F) Grade #6. Soils are generally unsuited for cultivation and are limited largely to pasture and sparse woodland. Limitations—
- Moderate to steep slopes (eight to twenty percent (8–20%));
2. Severe erosion hazards present;
3. Grades #3 and #4 bottomland subject to frequent damaging flooding (more than once in two (2) years), and Grade #5 bottomland subject to occasional damaging flooding (once every three to five (3–5) years); and
4. Intensive management required for crops.
Use value: one hundred fifty-eight dollars ($158); ….
(I) Definitions. The following are definitions of flooding for purposes of this rule:
- Damaging flooding. A damaging flood is one that limits or affects crop production in one (1) or more of the following ways:
A. Erosion of the soil;
B. Reduced yields due to plant damage caused by standing or flowing water;
C. Reduced crop selection due to extended delays in planting and harvesting; and
D. Soil damage caused by sand and rock being deposited on the land by flood waters;
2. Frequent damaging flooding. Flooding of bottomlands that is so frequent that normal row cropping is affected (reduces row crop selection); and
3. Occasional damaging flooding. Flooding of bottomland that is so infrequent that producing normal row crops is not compromised in most years.”
Investigation by Hearing Officer
In order to investigate appeals filed with the STC, 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 RSMo (2000), as amended. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon her inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Id.
The Hearing Officer reviewed the testimony and photographs provided to establish the productivity value for the subject parcels.
Official and Judicial Notice
Agencies shall take official notice of all matters of which the courts take judicial notice. Section 536.070(6). Courts will take judicial notice of their own records in the same cases. State ex rel. Horton v. Bourke, 129 S.W.2d 866, 869 (1939); Barth v. Kansas City Elevated Railway Company, 44 S.W. 788, 781 (1898). In addition, courts may take judicial notice of records in earlier cases when justice requires or when it is necessary for a full understanding of the instant appeal. Burton v. Moulder, 245 S.W.2d 844, 846 (Mo. 1952); Knorp v. Thompson, 175 S.W.2d 889, 894 (1943); Bushman v. Barlow, 15 S.W.2d 329, 332 (Mo. banc 1929); State ex rel St. Louis Public Service Company v. Public Service Commission, 291 S.W.2d 95, 97 (Mo. banc 1956).
In the present appeal, the Hearing Officer takes official notice of 12 CSR 30-4.010.
Weight to be Given Evidence
The Hearing Officer is not bound by any single formula, rule, or method in determining true value in money but is free to consider all pertinent facts and estimates and to give them such weight as reasonably they may be deemed entitled. The relative weight to be accorded any relevant factor in a particular case is for the Hearing Officer to decide. St. Louis County v. Security Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977); St. Louis County v. STC, 515 S.W.2d 446, 450 (Mo. 1974); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650 (Mo. 1968).
In addition to disputing the valuation and classification of their property, Complainant alleges discrimination. The issue is whether the assessment is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, as it attempts to deprive and deny the Complainants the equal protection of the laws. “The purpose of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is to secure every person within the state’s jurisdiction against intentional and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by express terms of a statute or by its improper execution through duly constituted agents.” Sunday Lake Iron Co v Wakefield Tp, 247 U.S. 350, 38 S. Ct 495, 62 L.Ed 1154 (1918)
To obtain a reduction in assessed value based upon discrimination, the complaining taxpayer must (1) prove the true value in money of the subject property as of the taxing date; and (2) show an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessor, which resulted in an assessment at a greater percentage of value than other property within the same class and the same taxing district, or, in the absence of such an intentional plan, show that the level of assessment is “so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment.” Zimmerman v. Mid–America Financial Corp., 481 S.W.3d 564, 571 (Mo. App. E.D. 2015), quoting Savage v. State Tax Comm’n of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 78 (Mo. banc 1986).
There is no evidence that there was an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessing officials, so we must determine if the Complainants presented substantial and persuasive evidence to show that the level of their assessment is so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment.
Missouri courts have consistently held that (1) a taxpayer alleging discrimination must show the [TVM] of his property as a necessary part of his discrimination claim; and (2) the proper method of determining discrimination is to compare the actual level of assessment of the subject property as determined by the assessor to the common level of assessment for the subject property’s subclass. Mid-America Financial Corp., 481 S.W.3d at 574, citing Savage, 722 S.W.2d at 72.
Complainants alleged three grounds for appeal: overvaluation, misclassification and discrimination. Subject properties were classified as commercial. The testimony established that the properties are used for agricultural purposes and devoted primarily to the raising and harvesting of crops. A review of the exhibits provided the information necessary for grading the property. The aerial photographs show the topography. The testimony of Ruppel establishes the property is level, suitable for agricultural purposes with little or no rocks. The land has minimum slopes, little or no damage from flooding or erosion, and is suitable for most crops. Two of the parcels have portions that are heavily wooded and sloped and are not as suitable for growing winter wheat.
The land used for growing the winter wheat and harvesting of crops is Grade 2 agricultural land. The productivity value of Grade 2 land is $850 per acre. The wooded area is Grade 6. The productivity value of Grade 6 land is $158 per acre.
Complainants established, by substantial and persuasive evidence, the TVM (productivity value) and classification of the property.
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Grade 2 Acres||TVM
|Grade 6 Acres||TVM
The TVM and classification of the subject property is SET ASIDE. The proper classification of the subject property is agricultural and the assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2015 and 2016 is set at:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Assessed Value|
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
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 27th day of March, 2018.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 27th day of March, 2018, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainant, the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Devore, Collector, email@example.com
Contact Information for State Tax Commission:
Missouri State Tax Commission
301 W. High Street, Room 840
P.O. Box 146
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146
 Two sets of Complainants presented evidence at the hearing as to the ratio of assessment of Commercial properties. The groups were labeled by the parties for ease of reference as “PAR” Complainants and “Sansone” Complainants. Complainant, Medventures Property Management Co, is in the Sansone group. Exhibits filed on behalf of PAR group are listed at the end of this Decision and Order.
 Representative for tax purposes of the Complainant.
 IAAO stands for the International Association of Assessing Officers. Its members include government assessment officials and others interested in the administration of the property tax. They provide education, resources and standards for ad valorem taxation.