Georgia E Hammons v. Jake Zimmerman, Assessor St. Louis County

January 30th, 2018

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

 

GEORGIA E. HAMMONS, )  
  )  
              Complainant )  
  )  
v. ) Appeal No. 17-10290
  )  
JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR )  
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,

Respondent

)  

 

DECISION AND ORDER

 

HOLDING

 

The assessment made by the Board of Equalization of St. Louis County (BOE) is AFFIRMED.  Complainant Georgia E. Hammons (Complainant) did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE.  True value in money (TVM) for the subject property for tax years 2017 and 2018 is set at $335,000, residential, assessed value of $63,650.

Complainant appeared pro se.

Respondent Jake Zimmerman, St. Louis County Assessor, (Respondent) appeared by Counsel Steven Robson.

Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Amy S. Westermann (Hearing Officer).

ISSUE

Complainant appealed on the grounds of overvaluation, discrimination, and exemption.  Respondent initially set the TVM of the subject property, as residential property, at $335,000.  The BOE valued the subject property at $335,000, thereby sustaining Respondent’s valuation.  The State Tax Commission (STC) takes this appeal to determine the TVM for the subject property as of January 1, 2017.  The value as of January 1 of the odd numbered year remains the value as of January 1 of the following even numbered year unless there is new construction or improvement to the property.  Section 137.115.1 RSMo.

The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.

FINDINGS OF FACT

  1. Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper.  Complainant timely appealed to the STC from the decision of the BOE.
  2. Evidentiary Hearing. The Evidentiary Hearing was held on December 20, 2017, at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building, Clayton, Missouri.
  3. Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by map parcel number or locator number 18R640363.  It is further identified as 14227 Kinderhook Dr., Chesterfield, St. Louis County, Missouri. (Complaint for Review, Exhibit 1)
  4. Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of a 22,750 square foot lot improved by 2,428 square foot, ranch style, single-family residence, built in 1978.  The residence includes a full basement; a three car garage; three bedrooms; two full bathrooms and one half bathroom; and a brick exterior with minimal vinyl.  Complainant appealed the assessment of the subject property in 2010 and 2014.  At the time of the 2010 appeal, the structure was considered to be in good condition and the quality of materials and workmanship was considered average, consistent with surrounding properties.  (STC Decision and Order 14-10640)
  5. Assessment. Respondent valued the property at $335,000 as residential property, with an assessed value of $62,434.  The BOE valued the subject property at $335,000, thereby sustaining the initial valuation.  (Complaint; Exhibit 1)  In 2009, the subject property was valued at $347,900 by Respondent, supported by an appraisal of $355,000.  (STC Decision and Order 14-10640)
  6. Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant offered into evidence the following exhibits:
Exhibit A Letter consisting of 22 pages of single-spaced type with nonsensical and rambling partial sentences, clauses, phrases, and possible defined words referencing Judaism; names, verses and passages from the Bible;  and astrological signs and symbols
Exhibit B Letter dated May 15, 2017, from BJC Health Care referencing MetLife Group Contract Number 516 Pension Plan as of January 1, 1976
Exhibit C Copies of letters dated February to May 1979 related to court proceedings involving Complainant and Alton Memorial Hospital in the Third Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois
Exhibit D Copy of stipulation of divorce between Joyce Hovorka and Edward Hovorka dated September 6, 1977; copy of marriage record of Charles Hammons and Joyce Hovorka; copy of affidavit of Joyce Hammons dated March 14, 1984, averring that she was married to Charles Hammons on October 16, 1977
Exhibit E Copy of record of marriage between Charles Hammons and Shirley Smith dated February 10, 1968; copies of petition and judgment for dissolution of marriage of Charles Hammons and Shirley Smith simultaneously dated October 13, 1977
Exhibit F Copy of McDonnel Aircraft employment identification cards of James Hammons, circa 1960s; copy of letter dated March 22, 2012, from Financial Freedom Reverse Mortgage notifying Complainant that the reverse mortgage loan associated with the subject property was suspended and in default status; copy of letter dated April 23, 2012, from Financial Freedom Reverse Mortgage notifying Complainant of completion of a repayment plan for taxes, insurance, and/or homeowner’s association fees paid by Financial Freedom on behalf of Complainant; letter dated March 9, 2017, from Financial Freedom Reverse Mortgage requesting verification of payment of 2016 real property taxes for the subject property; copy of April 8, 2017, consignment contract between Complainant and Lucky Strike Estate Sales describing items of personal property owned by Complainant, the value of the personal property, the sale price of the personal property, and the commission rate and fees for the sale
Exhibit G

 

 

 

 

Duplicate receipt of 2016 St. Louis County Real Estate Tax Bill for the subject property showing paid date of May 1, 2017, and showing a balance of $0.00; copies of checks made payable to St. Louis County Department of Revenue and signed by Complainant
Exhibit H

 

 

 

Copy of first page of “Special Sale Contract” dated May 2, 2017, between Lanpar Corporation, Rob Wren, President, and Complainant for the purchase of the subject property in the amount of $175,000; advertisement flyer for Wren Realty
Exhibit I

 

 

 

St. Louis County Real Estate Tax History Statement for the subject property dated February 3, 2014
Exhibit J Copy of promissory note in favor of General American Life Insurance Company dated September 18, 1978, signed by James Hammons and Complainant in the amount of $60,000 at the annual rate of 8.5%; copy of cancelled deed of trust/deed of release dated September 15, 1997

 

Respondent did not object to Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F, G, I, and J, all of which were admitted into the record.  Respondent objected to Exhibit H for lack of foundation on the ground that the president of Lanpar Corporation, Rob Wren, was not present to testify and the exhibit was, therefore, hearsay.  The Hearing Officer overruled the objection and received Exhibit H into the record to be given the weight deemed appropriate in the context of all the other evidence.

Complainant testified that the subject property had been purchased on September 18, 1978, for $80,000.  Complainant testified that the subject property is encumbered by a reverse mortgage.  Complainant testified that the subject property had a TVM of $175,000 as of January 1, 2017; that she would list the subject property for sale at a price of $175,000; and that an offer had been made to purchase the subject property for $175,000, as shown in Exhibit H.  Complainant testified the subject property had not been appraised within three years prior to the Evidentiary Hearing because an appraiser “cannot be fair, honest, and straightforward and this is where the blood judicial system comes in.”  Complainant testified that no improvements had been made to the subject property between January 1, 2015, and January 1, 2017.  Complainant also testified that she believed the TVM of the subject property was $0 as of January 1, 2017, due to “fraud” in the building of and rehabilitation of the home.  Complainant testified that she had obtained a reverse mortgage for the subject property, which had included a “tax deferred form” filed with the attorney general’s office.  Complainant did not offer a copy of a “tax deferred form” or any other document filed with the attorney general’s office.  Complainant further testified that the County had unclean hands and could not assess the subject property fairly and in an unbiased manner.

On cross examination, Complainant testified that she was listed as the owner of the subject property as shown in Respondent’s Exhibit 1.  When asked whether she had conducted a ratio study to prove her claim of discrimination, Complainant testified that she had not conducted such a study.

  1. Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered into evidence the following exhibits:
Exhibit 1 BOE Findings and Notice of Decision
Exhibit 2 Copy of Assignment Deed for Subject Property Recorded in St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds Book 22556, Page 1282, recorded on June 7, 2017, showing Financial Freedom Acquisition LLC as grantor and Federal National Mortgage as grantee

 

Complainant did not object to Respondent’s exhibits, which were admitted into the record.

 

  1. Presumption of Correct Assessment Not Rebutted. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE and to establish the TMV of the subject property as of January 1, 2017, to be either $0 or $175,000 as proposed by Complainant.  Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to establish that the subject property is exempt from taxation or that the assessment of the subject property was discriminatory.

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, 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

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.

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.

During the Evidentiary Hearing, the Hearing Officer inquired of Complainant.

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).  Courts may take judicial notice of their own records in prior proceedings involving the same parties and basically the same facts.  In re Murphy, 732 S.W.2d 895, 902 (Mo. banc 1987); State v. Gilmore, 681 S.W.2d 934, 940 (Mo. banc 1984); State v. Keeble, 399 S.W.2d 118, 122 (Mo. 1966).

In the present appeal, the Hearing Officer takes official notice of STC Decision and Order in Appeal Number 14-10640 involving the same subject property and parties.  There, the STC affirmed the valuation placed upon the subject property by the BOE and found that Complainant failed to present any evidence demonstrating market value in that appeal.  The issues of the previous appeal and the Decision made in the previous appeal will not be re-litigated here but are given official notice to allow for a more thorough understanding of the background surrounding the present appeal and to aid in making a proper decision in the instant appeal.

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).

Hearsay and Relevance

            In evidentiary law there are two important and fundamental concepts relating to the admissibility of evidence, whether in testimonial or documentary form.  Those two principles are hearsay and relevance.  Either can be sufficient in various circumstances to exclude testimony or documents from coming into the evidentiary record.

Hearsay

            Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition (1999), p. 726, defines generally hearsay testimony that is given by a witness who relates not what he or she knows personally but what others have said and is, therefore, dependent upon the credibility of someone other than the witness and inadmissible under the rules of evidence unless an exception to the hearsay rule applies.  McCormick on Evidence, Third Edition, (1984), p. 729, defines the term as; “a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”  The Courtroom Handbook on Missouri Evidence Missouri Practice, William A. Schroeder – 2012, Principle 800.c, p. 504,

follows the definition given by the Federal Rules and cited by McCormick.  The out-of-court statement can take the form of either oral or written assertions.  Therefore, documents which make assertions of facts are hearsay, just as well, as the speech of another person.

The hearsay rule provides that “no assertion offered as testimony can be received unless it is or has been open to test by cross-examination or an opportunity for cross-examination, except as otherwise provide by the rules of evidence, by court rules or by statute.”  Black’s, supra – hearsay rule, p. 726.  The rationale behind the rule is quite simply that out-of-court hearsay statements are not made under oath and cannot be subject to cross-examination.  Accordingly, when various documents, such as but not limited to, Internet, newspaper and magazine articles are offered as exhibits in a hearing before the Commission, unless the document falls within one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule, upon objection, such must be excluded.

Relevance

            The principle of relevance is the second critical evidentiary factor that must be considered when testimony and documents are tendered for admission into an evidentiary record.  For facts, information or opinions to be relevant they must be connected in a logical manner and tend to prove or disprove a matter that is at issue in the proceeding. Black’s, supra – relevant, p. 1293.    McCormick explains that “There are two components to relevant evidence: materiality and probative value.  Materiality looks to the relation between the propositions for which the evidence is offered and the issues of the case.  If the evidence is offered to help prove a proposition which is not a matter in issue, the evidence is immaterial.  . . .  The second aspect of relevance is probative value, the tendency of evidence to establish the proposition that it is offered to prove.”  McCormick, supra – p. 541.  Evidence, that tends to prove or disprove a fact that is at issue or of consequence, is relevant.  Missouri Practice, supra – p. 95.

In appeals on the value of property, the issue is what a willing buyer and seller would have agreed to as the purchase price on the applicable valuation date.  The issue is not what real estate price trends in general may have been or any given period of time.  The issue is specific to the property that is under appeal.  Therefore, general statements, claims, conclusions, and opinions as to what the “market for homes” has or hasn’t done do not meet the factors of materiality and probative value and are accordingly irrelevant.  The fact that some report provides general information on home values is addressing a matter that is not at issue in an appeal.  Such information is not material.  Furthermore, such general data does not tend to prove what the property under appeal was worth on the given valuation date.  For example, a report that home prices in the nation, region or certain metropolitan area over a four or five year period decreased by a certain average percentage provides no factual information as to the price or value of any given home.  In other words, such information is not probative on the issue of value.  It does nothing to prove that a given property is worth one amount or another.

Board Presumption

            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.  If Respondent is seeking to prove a value different than that set by the BOE, then Respondent is required to rebut the BOE presumption.

In the present appeal, the BOE sustained the initial valuation of Respondent.  Complainant is now seeking to lower the BOE’s valuation while Respondent is seeking to uphold the BOE’s valuation; therefore, the BOE presumption applies with regard to Complainant.


Complainant’s Burden of Proof

To obtain a reduction in assessed valuation based upon an alleged overvaluation, the Complainant must prove the TVM of the subject property on the subject tax day.  Hermel, Inc., v. State Tax Commission, 564 S.W.2d 888, 897 (Mo. banc 1978).  TVM is defined as the price that the subject property would bring when offered for sale by one willing but not obligated to sell it and bought by one willing or desirous to purchase but not compelled to do so.  Rinehart v. Bateman, 363 S.W.3d 357, 365 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012); Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008); Greene County v. Hermel, Inc., 511 S.W.2d 762, 771 (Mo. 1974).  TVM is defined in terms of value in exchange and not in terms of value in use.  Stephen & Stephen Properties, Inc. v. State Tax Commission, 499 S.W.2d 798, 801-803 (Mo. 1973).  In sum, TVM is the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date.  Hermel, Inc., 564 S.W.2d at 897.

“True value’ is never an absolute figure, but is merely an estimate of the fair market value on the valuation date.”  Drury Chesterfield, Inc., v. Muehlheausler, 347 S.W.3d 107, 112 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011), citing St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. State Tax Comm’n of Mo., 854 S.W.2d 526, 529 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993).  “Fair market value typically is defined as the price which the property would bring when offered for sale by a willing seller who is not obligated to sell, and purchased by a willing buyer who is not compelled to buy.”  Drury Chesterfield, Inc., 347 S.W.3d at 112 (quotation omitted).

A presumption exists that the assessed value fixed by the BOE is correct.  Rinehart, 363 S.W.3d at 367; Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348; Hermel, Inc., 564 S.W.2d at 895.  “Substantial and persuasive controverting evidence is required to rebut the presumption, with the burden of proof resting on the taxpayer.”  Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348.  Substantial evidence can be defined as such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.  Cupples Hesse Corp. v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959).  Persuasive evidence is evidence that has sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact.  Cupples Hesse Corp., 329 S.W.2d at 702.  The persuasiveness of evidence does not depend on the quantity or amount thereof but on its effect in inducing belief.  Brooks v. General Motors Assembly Division, 527 S.W.2d 50, 53 (Mo. App. 1975).  See also, Westwood Partnership v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003).

There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct.  The taxpayer in a STC appeal still bears the burden of proof.  The taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief.  Therefore, the Complainant bears the burden of proving the vital elements of the case, i.e., the assessment was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.”  Westwood Partnership, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. W.D. 1991).

Generally, a property owner, while not an expert, is competent to testify to the reasonable market value of his own land.  Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348-49; Carmel Energy, Inc. v. Fritter, 827 S.W.2d 780, 783 (Mo. App. W.D. 1992).  “However, when an owner’s opinion is based on improper elements or foundation, his opinion loses its probative value.”  Carmel Energy, Inc., 827 S.W.2d at 783.  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. E.D. 1980).

Discrimination

            Complainant also claimed discrimination as a ground for appeal.  In order to obtain a reduction in assessed value based upon discrimination, the Complainant must (1) prove the true value in money of her 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 that the assessment on the subject property was so grossly excessive as to be inconsistent with an honest exercise of judgment.   Koplar v. State Tax Commission, 321 S.W.2d 686, 690, 695 (Mo. 1959).  Evidence of value and assessments of a few properties 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 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, supra.

Where there is a claim of discrimination based upon a lack of valuation consistency, Complainant has the burden to prove the level of assessment for the subject property in 2017.  This is done by independently determining the market value of the subject property and dividing the market value into the assessed value of the property as determined by the assessor’s office.

Complainant must then prove the average level of assessment for residential property in St. Louis County for 2017.  This is done by (a) independently determining the market value of a representative sample of residential properties in St. Louis County; (b) determining the assessed value placed on the property by the assessor’s office for the relevant year; (c) dividing the assessed value by the market value to determine the level of assessment for each property in the sample; and (d) determining the mean and median of the results.  The difference between the actual assessment level of the subject property and the average level of assessment for all residential property, taken from a sufficient representative sample in St. Louis County must demonstrate a disparity that is grossly excessive.  Savage, supra.

Exemption

In Missouri, taxation of real and personal property is the rule, and exemption from taxation is the exception to the rule.  The legal authority for ad valorem property tax exemptions is located in Article X, Section 6, of the Missouri Constitution of 1945 and in Section 137.100:  Article X, Section 6 of the Missouri Constitution provides, in relevant part:

[A]ll property, real and personal, not held for private or corporate profit and used exclusively for religious worship, for schools and colleges, for purposes purely charitable, . . . may be exempt from taxation by general law but any such law may provide for approximate restitution to the respective political subdivisions of revenues lost by reason of the exemption.  All laws exempting from taxation property other than the property enumerated in this article, shall be void.

 

In support of this Constitutional provision, Section 137.100 provides in relevant part:

The following subjects are exempt from taxation for state, county or local purposes:

(5) All property, real and personal, actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship, for schools and colleges, or for purposes purely charitable and not held for private or corporate profit, except that the exemption herein granted does not include real property not actually used or occupied for the purpose of the organization but held or used as investment even though the income or rentals received therefrom is used wholly for religious, education or charitable purposes[.]

 

Methods of Valuation

Proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission.  It is within the purview of the Hearing Officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.  See Nance v. STC, 18 S.W.3d 611, 615 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000); Hermel, Inc., 564 S.W.2d at 897; Xerox Corp. v. STC, 529 S.W.2d 413 (Mo. banc 1975).  Missouri courts have approved the comparable sales or market approach, the cost approach, and the income approach as recognized methods of arriving at fair market value.   St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. STC, 854 S.W.2d 526, 529 (App. E.D. 1993); Aspenhof Corp. v. STC, 789 S.W.2d 867, 869 (App. E.D. 1990); Quincy Soybean Company, Inc., v. Lowe, 773 S.W.2d 503, 504 (App. E.D. 1989), citing Del-Mar Redevelopment Corp v. Associated Garages, Inc., 726 S.W.2d 866, 869 (App. E.D. 1987); and State ex rel. State Highway Comm’n v. Southern Dev. Co., 509 S.W.2d 18, 27 (Mo. 1974).

“For purposes of levying property taxes, the value of real property is typically determined using one or more of three generally accepted approaches.”  Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 346 (Mo. banc 2005), citing St. Louis County v. Security Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977).  “Each valuation approach is applied with reference to a specific use of the property—its highest and best use.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346-47, citing Aspenhof  Corp., 789 S.W.2d at 869.  “The method used depends on several variables inherent in the highest and best use of the property in question.”  Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347.

“Each method uses its own unique factors to calculate the property’s true value in money.”  Id.  “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 348.  “Comparable sales consist of evidence of sales reasonably related in time and distance and involve land comparable in character.”  Id. (quotation omitted).  “This approach is most appropriate when there is an active market for the type of property at issue such that sufficient data [is] available to make a comparative analysis.”  Id.

Implicit in this definition are the consummation of a sale as of a specific date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:

  1. Buyer and seller are typically motivated.

 

  1. Both parties are well informed and well advised, and both acting in what they consider their own best interests.

 

  1. A reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market.

 

  1. Payment is made in cash or its equivalent.

 

  1. Financing, if any, is on terms generally available in the Community at the specified date and typical for the property type in its locale.

 

  1. The price represents a normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special financing amounts and/or terms, services, fees, costs, or credits incurred in the transaction.

 

Real Estate Appraisal Terminology, Society of Real Estate Appraisers, Revised Edition, 1984; see also, Real Estate Valuation in Litigation, J. D. Eaton, M.A.I., American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, 1982, pp. 4-5; Property Appraisal and Assessment Administration, International Association of Assessing Officers, 1990, pp. 79-80; Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, Glossary.

Discussion

Complainant alleged three grounds for appeal:  overvaluation, discrimination, and exemption.

Overvaluation

Complainant failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence to support her opinion of the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2017.

First, Complainant offered Exhibit H as evidence that she had received an offer to purchase the subject property for $175,000.  Respondent objected on the ground that Exhibit H lacked foundation and was hearsay because the individual named as the “buyer” in the exhibit was not present to be cross examined about the alleged offer.  The Hearing Officer initially overruled the objection and received Exhibit H into the record to be given the weight deemed necessary in the context of all the evidence.  However, upon further review, it is concluded that Exhibit H constitutes hearsay that does not fall within any exception to the rule against hearsay and is, therefore, excluded.  Even if Exhibit H were admissible, Complainant did not offer any evidence establishing that the offer of $175,000 had been accepted or that the sale had closed.  Exhibit H was a copy of only the first page of a purported sale contract for the subject property.  No signature page or any other page from the purported sale contract was included as part of Exhibit H.  Furthermore, Complainant’s own testimony and Respondent’s Exhibit 2 indicate that the subject property was encumbered by a reverse mortgage and that Complainant owned the subject property as of the date of the evidentiary hearing.

Second, although Respondent did not object to Complainant’s Exhibits A through G and I and J, none of these exhibits is relevant to support Complainant’s opinion of the subject property’s TVM.  In particular, Exhibit A consists of 22 single-spaced typed pages containing nonsensical and rambling partial sentences, clauses, phrases, and possible defined words referencing Judaism; names, verses and passages from the Bible;  and astrological signs and symbols; all of which are expressed in a form that lacks coherent purpose or structure.  The following is one example:

CANAAN’S MONETARY GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION

CHART-MAP THE EVERLASTING PSYCHO-CORPORATE BREATH SPIRITED SOUL

Noah [BE: rest]; sense, a mint’s extinct- “no longer in use” ammonite cloak’s monetary equality active-living water of adhered-life; sense, “am I,” cf. Gen. 22:7; lit., not ever long arm’s hand to my- “Messiah Jesus/we” Gen. 9:26 blessed/blood senseless unconscious state; notion, be a religious belief right mandrakes root human shape narcotic-hummus- “black soil for growth or development of any king” exist Luke 23:43 repentance Babylonian soul:  as, the Star of David called Solomon’s Seal-mark-limited where to lay his-Jesus/we head” cf. naked intellectual deathlike ammonite cloak breath never ever be matter-at-law to arise to arch over my possessive BE intertwined W “Lord’-Baal Meon-slopping toward’” my-Messiah-Jesus/we active Luke 23:43 repentance animated anima belief right matter-of-fact cloak; hence, John 3:7:  Ye must be born-nature again.  Gen. 5:29 Noah was a cf. Dan. 2:44&45 cloak-son of Lamech [BE: “strong, W: male (sense, Canaan O.T. alpha judgeship-Zebulun-agree recoil mint’s animating monetary equality active-living water of adhered-life for all, cf. N.T. omega male Jesus/we “Zebulon-slopping toward monetary equality for all” to mint-Asher open door futuristic judgeship; hence, “I am” Rev. 3:8 open door to Issachar recompense monetary equality for all obligation just as Peter Matt. 16:16 confesses Jesus/we to the Christ); a youth; descendent of Gen. 4:15&18 Cain]

 

Similarly, none of Complainant’s remaining exhibits relates to the TVM of the subject property.[1]  Consequently, Complainant’s evidence did not rebut the presumption that the valuation made by the BOE was correct.

Discrimination

Complainant’s discrimination claim fails because she failed in the first instance to establish the market value of her property.  Without establishing the TVM of the subject property, Complainant cannot establish the assessment ratio of the subject property.  Complainant also did not establish the ratio of assessment of residential properties in St. Louis County.  Without establishing a ratio of assessment, Complainant cannot establish that the subject property is being assessed at a higher percentage of market value that any other residential property.

However, even if Complainant had established the TVM of the subject property, the discrimination claim would still fail because Complainant has not demonstrated that a statistically significant number of other residential properties within St. Louis County are being assessed at a lower ratio of market value than the subject property.  Complainant presented absolutely no evidence of discrimination.  Thus, Complainant’s claim of discrimination fails.

Exemption

As one of the grounds for her appeal, Complainant asserted that the subject property was exempt from ad valorem taxation for religious, charitable, and educational reasons.  However, Complainant did not present a scintilla of evidence establishing that the subject property is actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship, for schools and colleges, or for purposes purely charitable.  Consequently, there is no evidentiary basis for concluding that subject property qualifies for an exemption.

ORDER

The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by Respondent and sustained by the BOE for the subject tax day is AFFIRMED.  The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2017 and 2018 is set at $63,650.

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 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 30th day of January, 2018.

STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI

 

Amy S. Westermann

Senior Hearing Officer

 

I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 30th day of January, 2018. The individuals notified are as follows:

 

Georgia Hammons, 14227 Kinderhook Dr, Chesterfeild, MO 63017-2921, Complainant

Steven Robson, Counsel for Respondent, SRobson@stlouisco.com

Robert Koch, RKoch@stlouisco.com

Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, syoutzy@stlouisco.com

Mark Devore, Collector, collector@stlouisco.com

 

Jacklyn Wood

Legal Coordinator

 

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

573-751-2414

573-751-1341 Fax

[1] Although Respondent did not have the burden of proof in this appeal, Respondent’s Exhibit 2 indicated that the subject property was encumbered by a reverse mortgage with an initial value of $625,500, dated November 25, 2008.