Douglas Fielder v. Robert Murphy, Assessor Jackson County

December 5th, 2017

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

 

 

DOUGLAS FIELDER )  
  )  
             Complainant )  
  )  
v. ) Appeal No. 17-30001
  ) Parcel/Loc. No. 65-540-06-05-00-0-00-000
ROBERT MURPHY,  ASSESSOR )  
JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, )  
  )  
Respondent )  

 

DECISION AND ORDER

 

HOLDING

 

The assessment made by the Board of Equalization of Jackson County (BOE) is AFFIRMED.  Complainant Douglas Fielder (Complainant) did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE.

Complainant appeared pro se.

Robert Murphy, Assessor of Jackson County, Missouri (Respondent) appeared by attorney Tamika Logan.

Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer John Treu (Hearing Officer).

ISSUE

Complainant appealed on the ground of discrimination.  Respondent set a true value in money (TVM) of $82,569 ($15,688 Assessed Value). The BOE determined a TVM of $105,000 ($19,950 Assessed Value).

The State Tax Commission (STC) takes this appeal to determine whether there was an intentional plan by the assessing officials to assess the property under appeal at a ratio greater than 19% of true value in money or at a ratio grossly excessive to the average 2017 residential assessment ratio for Jackson County.

FINDINGS OF FACT

  1. Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper.  Complainant timely appealed to the STC.
  2. Evidentiary Hearing. The issue of discrimination was presented at an evidentiary hearing on November 15, 2017, at the Jackson County Courthouse, Kansas City, Missouri.
  3. Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by parcel/locator number 65-540-06-05-00-0-00-000.  It is further identified as 727 E. 122nd Place, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri.  (Complaint for Review of Assessment)
  4. Description of Subject Property. The subject property is located in the Mission Lake townhome community, which consist of 239 total townhomes.  The subject is the middle residential townhome in a 5-plex.  The subject has 1,497 square feet of livable area, is one and one-half stories, with two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a fireplace, and a 1-car attached garage.  The subject was built on a slab in 1983.  It has no view of the lake.  (Exhibits B through E, Exhibits 1 and 2, and testimony of witnesses)
  5. Sale of Subject and Complainant’s Opinion of TVM. The subject property was purchased by Complainant on June 16, 2016 for $105,000.  Complainant opined a TVM of the subject property, as of January 1, 2017, of between $105,000 and $110,000.
  6. Assessment. Respondent set the TVM for the subject property of $82,569, as of January 1, 2017, residential classification.
  7. Board of Equalization. The BOE determined a TVM of the subject property at $105,000, as of January 1, 2017.
  8. Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant offered Exhibits A through E, and Complainant’s own testimony.  Respondent objected to Exhibit D.  The objection was overruled and the exhibit was received to be given such weight as the Hearing Officer deemed appropriate.  Exhibits A through C and E were received without objection:
Exhibit Description
A Statement of Complainant
B BOE Support Report
C Comparison of Sold Properties in Mission Lake
D Information of Other Homes in Mission Lake
E Master Tax Compilation for Mission Lake

 

  1. Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered Exhibits 1 through 4, and the testimony of Darlene Lachey (Lachey) and Richard Hillhouse (Hillhouse) all of which were received without objection:[1]
Exhibit Description
1 BOE Support Report
2 Summary Report
3 Unofficial Transcript by IAAO of Hillhouse
4 Mass Appraisal Trainee Experience Log of Hillhouse

 

Lachey has been employed with Jackson County Assessment Department since 1994.  She is a residential appraisal coordinator.  She has served as senior residential appraiser for the county.  She has completed the education and passed the certification examination as a residential appraiser in the State of Missouri.  She testified as to the TVM of the subject property.

Hillhouse is employed with Jackson County Assessment Department since 2000.  He is a senior research analyst.  He has extensive education in mass appraisal.  Hillhouse testified as to appraisal process for assessment purposes in Jackson County through use of a computerized assisted mass appraisal.

 

  1. Presumption of Correct Assessment Not Rebutted.  Complainant’s evidence was not substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE and establish an intentional plan by the assessing officials to assess the property under appeal at a ratio greater than 19% of true value in money or at a ratio grossly excessive to the average 2017 residential assessment ratio for Jackson County.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION

Jurisdiction

The STC 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 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

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.

 

Section 138.060 RSMo.

Section 138.060 RSMo. states in pertinent part that “[a]t any hearing before the state tax commission or a court of competent jurisdiction of an appeal of assessment from a first class charter county or a city not within a county, the assessor shall not advocate nor present evidence advocating a valuation higher than that value finally determined by the assessor or the value determined by the board of equalization, whichever is higher, for that assessment period.”

As set forth previously, the BOE’ determination of TVM of the subject property was higher than that set by the Respondent.  Nothing in Section 138.060 RSMo. prohibits the BOE from raising such TVM after hearing.

Discrimination

Complainant appealed on the ground of discrimination.  In order to obtain a reduction in assessed value based upon discrimination, the Complainant must (1) prove the true value in money of their property on January 1, 2017; and (2) show an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessing officials resulting in an assessment of that property at a greater percentage of value than other property, generally, within the same class within the same taxing jurisdiction or show that the level of an assessment is so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment.

There is no evidence that there was an intentional plan of discrimination by the assessing officials so we must determine if the Complainant has 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.  “By requiring that the level of an assessment be so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment in cases in which intentional discrimination is not shown, the courts and the Commission refrain from correcting assessments which reflect no more than de minimus errors of judgment on the part of assessors. Such a standard recognizes that ‘[w]hile practical uniformity is the constitutional goal, absolute uniformity is an unattainable ideal’.” Savage v. State Tax Commission, 722 S.W.2d 72 (S.Ct. 1986), Westwood Partnership v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003.)

Complainant Fails To Prove Discrimination

Complainant testified he only wanted his property to be assessed like the neighboring properties.  The Hearing Officer understands this claim to essentially be an assertion of inequity in assessments. In order to obtain a reduction in assessed value based upon discrimination or inequality in assessment, a taxpayer must establish that the property being appealed is not being assessed at either the statutory ratio for property of its class or it is being assessed at a ratio of TVM greater than the average ratio for the same class of property in the county.  Koplar v. State Tax Commission, 321 S.W.2d 686, 690 & 695 (Mo. 1959).  Evidence of value and assessments of a few properties (in this appeal upon properties solely within the Mission Lake townhome community) does not prove discrimination.

Substantial evidence must show that all other property in the same class, generally, is actually undervalued.  State ex rel. Plantz v. State Tax Commission, 384 S.W.2d 565, 568 (Mo. 1964).  The difference in the assessment ratio of the subject property and the average assessment ratio in the subject county must be shown to be grossly excessive.  Savage v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 79 (Mo. banc 1986).  No other methodology is sufficient to establish discrimination.  Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696 (Mo. 1958).

Complainant provided no evidence upon which the Hearing Officer could find that the assessment ratio on the property under appeal was grossly excessive in comparison to the average residential assessment for Jackson County.  There is no evidence on this record whereby the Hearing Officer can reach any conclusion as to the average assessment ratio for residential property in Jackson County.  Accordingly, there is no basis to find that Mr. Fielder’s property is not being assessed in the same manner as other residential property in Jackson County.

ORDER

The assessed value for the subject property as determined by the BOE 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 Jackson 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 December 5, 2017.

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

John Treu

Senior Hearing Officer

Certificate of Service

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 5th day of December, 2017, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainant, the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.

assessment@jacksongov.org; WMiller2@jacksongov.org; doug@aspiarh.com

 

Jacklyn Wood

Legal Coordinator

 

[1] Complainant noted a difference in the recommended value of Lachey between Exhibit B ($105,000) and Exhibit 1 ($110,000), with both recommendations being reflected as made by Lachey on 8/15/16.  Lachey testified her recommended amount was $110,000.