STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|GEORGE JOHNSON TRUST||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-14623|
|)||Parcel No. 21T340638|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
George Johnson Trust (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $299,000, with an assessed value of $56,810. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $235,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. However, Respondent presented substantial and persuasive evidence establishing the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $275,000. The BOE’s decision is set aside.
The evidentiary hearing was conducted on February 24, 2021, via WebEx. Complainant was represented by counsel Jeffrey Ernst. Respondent was represented by counsel Monique Nketah.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 436 Nottingham in St. Louis County, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 21T340638.
The subject property consists of a 0.3857 acre lot and a 2,295 square foot two-story single family home that has four bedrooms, two full baths, and one half bath. (Ex. 1 at 1.)
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $316,000. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $299,000.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant asserts the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $235,000. Complainant presented the testimony of George Johnson, the trustee of the trust that owns the property, in support of its opinion of value and submitted the following exhibits:
|A||Photograph of the driveway of the Lewis Greenberg home with note.||Admitted|
|B||Photograph of the garage door of the Greenberg home with note.||Admitted|
|C||Photograph of the mailbox of the Greenberg home.||Admitted|
|D||Photograph of the front yard of the Greenberg home with note.||Admitted|
|E||Photograph of another view of the front yard of the Greenberg home with note.||Admitted|
|F||Photograph of another view of the front yard of the Greenberg home with note||Admitted|
|G||Photograph of another view of the front yard of the Greenberg home with note||Admitted|
|H||Photograph of the side yard of the Greenberg home with note.||Admitted|
|Rebuttal A||Helitech invoice marked paid in full as of May 1, 2018.||Admitted|
|Rebuttal B||Copy of three checks payable to Craig Cook and dated February 22, 2019, March 4, 2019, and December 5, 2019.||Admitted|
|Rebuttal C||Photograph of Notice for 977 Morena Court indicating that that “this building has been found to be dangerous by the building commissioner” and other information dated January 5, 2020.||Admitted|
Respondent did not object to any of the exhibits. Exhibits A through H and Rebuttal Exhibits A through C were received into evidence. Complainant asserts that the condition of Mr. Greenberg’s property, 977 Morena Court, negatively impacts the value of the subject property.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent presented the testimony of Steven J. Zahner, a senior appraiser with Respondent, and submitted Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner’s January 15, 2021, Restricted Appraisal Report for the subject property indicating a $275,000 opinion of value as of January 1, 2019. In Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner utilizes the sales comparison approach to estimate the market value of the subject property from recent sales of four comparable properties. Mr. Zahner made adjustments to the location section of the comparable sales grid to take into account a 7% negative impact 977 Morena Court has on homes in close proximity as well as other adjustments for differences between the subject property and comparable sales. (Ex. 1 at 5)
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $275,000.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation. 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. “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.
- Evidence. 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.
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof. The taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was overvalued or misclassified. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous” and must prove “the value that should have been placed on the property.” 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”).
- Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence in support of his $235,000 opinion of value. Although the evidence persuasively establishes that the location of the subject property in close proximity to 977 Morena Court in the condition depicted in Exhibits A through H and Exhibit 1 negatively impacted the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, Complainant did not persuasively establish any specific monetary impact from which to make a market-based adjustment to the value of the subject property. Complainant’s evidence does not specifically show how its $235,000 opinion of value was derived nor how a monetary impact to the TVM of the subject property for its proximity to 977 Morena Court was calculated. To the extent Rebuttal Exhibit A and B and Mr. Johnson’s related testimony are offered to challenge Exhibit 1, Exhibit 1 reflects that the subject property’s basement was unfinished as of January 1, 2019. For the “rooms below grade” feature, the subject and comparable sales grid reflects that the subject property is “unfinished.” (Ex. 1 at 6)
No evidence was offered in support of the BOE decision. Instead, Respondent persuasively established that $275,000, which was lower than the BOE’s valuation, was the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019. Mr. Zahner’s testimony and Exhibit 1 showed that the sales comparison approach was developed using comparable sales, and that adjustments to the four comparables were made. In Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner notes that 977 Morena Court “can be viewed from the subject’s side and back yard” and that “paired sales analysis” shows that such property “could impact the property values of homes in close proximity” negatively “by approximately 7%” and that such “impact was taken into consideration and adjustments were applied to the comparables sales in the location section.” (Ex. 1, at 5) Therefore, Respondent’s evidence substantially and persuasively established that the monetary impact of the subject property’s close proximity to 977 Morena Court on TVM was analyzed and determined as shown in Exhibit 1.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is set aside. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $275,000.
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 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.
SO ORDERED December 3, 2021.
Laura A. Storck-Elam
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 December 3, 2021, 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.
 Mr. Johnson testified that Rebuttal Exhibit A, a receipt for waterproofing, and Rebuttal Exhibit B, a copy of three checks used to replace paneling that was removed from the basement, show that the basement of the subject property was not finished as of January 1, 2019. (Tr. Pt. 1 6:52-7:50)
 Missouri operates on a two-year reassessment cycle for valuing real property. See Section 137.115.1. Absent new construction or improvements to a parcel of real property, the assessed value as of January 1 of the odd year remains the assessed value as of January 1 of the following even year. Id.