STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||Appeal No. 19-11589|
|v.||Parcel No. 26O220451|
|Jake Zimmerman, Assessor,|
|St. Louis County, Missouri,|
DECISION AND ORDER
Hydromat, Inc., (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding that the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $1,056,100. Complainant claims overvaluation and asserts the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $934,400. The parties waived an evidentiary hearing and submitted the appeal for a decision and order based on the record with no briefing. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is AFFIRMED.
Complainant is represented by attorney Apollo Carey. Respondent is represented by attorney Steven Robson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Authority. The BOE issued its decision on October 4, 2019. Complainant filed a complaint for review of assessment within 30 days of the BOE decision.
2. The Subject Property. Complainant owns the subject property. The subject property is real property located at 570 South Highway Drive in Fenton, Missouri. The subject property consists of a lot and an 11,165 square foot building used as a daycare facility. The building was built in 1997.
3. Assessment. Respondent assessed subject property as commercial property with an appraised value of $1,056,100 as of January 1, 2019.
4. Board of Equalization. The BOE determined the appraised value of the subject property was $1,056,100 as of January 1, 2019.
5. Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant submitted written direct testimony (WDT) from Christine Stefl and Exhibit A.
Ms. Stefl is Complainant’s authorized representative. Ms. Stefl prepared Exhibit A, which includes a table including data from four comparable sales of educational or daycare facilities occurring between August 2016 and May of 2017. Exhibit A also states patching the parking lot will cost $25,000 and complete repaving will cost $40,000. There are no estimates or other documentation supporting the necessity or cost of these repairs. (WDT at 3). The most pertinent data from the table in Exhibit A is as follows:
Use Sale Date Sale Price Square Footage Price Per Sq. Ft.
The median price per square foot for the properties listed in Exhibit A is $23.17. Ms. Stefl testified the comparable sales indicated the market value of the subject property is $83.00 per square foot. She testified Respondent’s value equates to $94.59 per square foot and “appears inconsistent with the comparable sales information provided.” (WDT at 3).
6. Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted Exhibit 1. Exhibit 1 is the BOE Findings and Notice of Decision informing Complainant that the BOE determined the appraised value of the subject property was $1,056,100 as of January 1, 2019.
7. Value. The true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $1,056,100.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The STC has authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal. Mo. Const. art. X, sec. 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000.
The hearing officer is the finder of fact and determines both the credibility and weight of the evidence. Kelly v. Missouri Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. 2015); see also section 536.090 (requiring all decisions and orders in contested cases to include “findings of fact”). “Although technical rules of evidence are not controlling in administrative hearings, fundamental rules of evidence are applicable.” Mo. Church of Scientology v. State Tax Comm’n, 560 S.W.2d 837, 839 (Mo. banc 1977).
3. Assessment and Valuation
Commercial real property is assessed at 32% of its “true value in money” as of January first of each odd-numbered year. Sections 137.115.1, 137.115.5(1)(c). “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, 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).
“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 (Mo. banc 2005). The three generally accepted approaches are the cost approach, the income approach, and the comparable sales approach. Id. at 346-48.
4. 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. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). 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 v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 346 (Mo. banc 2005). 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 v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 77 (Mo. banc 1986) (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 a “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”).
5. Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation
Ms. Stefl’s testimony and Exhibit A utilize comparable sales to support Complainant’s overvaluation claim. “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). Adjustments are necessary to reconcile differences and enable a market based comparison of properties with varying characteristics. For instance, the comparable sales approach requires a positive adjustment to the value of the comparable property to account for superior characteristics the subject property. Conversely, the comparable sales approach requires a negative adjustment to account for inferior characteristics of the subject property.
Ms. Stefl testified Respondent’s $94.59 per square foot value “appears inconsistent with the comparable sales information” in Exhibit A indicating the market value of the subject property is $83.00 per square foot. (WDT at 3). The maximum price per square foot of the properties listed in Exhibit A was $29.19 with a median price per square foot $23.17. The median price per square foot of Complainant’s own comparables listed in Exhibit A is only approximately 27% of Complainant’s proposed per square foot value of the subject property.
While Complainant’s approach is based on the legally recognized, market-based comparable sales approach, neither Ms. Stefl’s testimony nor Exhibit A includes any monetary adjustments accounting for differences between the subject property and the properties included in the comparable sales analysis. Critically, nothing in Exhibit A or Ms. Stefl’s testimony explains how properties with a median sale price of $23.17 per square foot are comparable to or in any way support Complainant’s proposed value of $83.00 per square foot. On this record, there is no objective basis for concluding that properties in Exhibit A, which have a median sale price that is 27% of Complainant’s proposed value, demonstrate overvaluation of the subject property as opposed to actual market-based differences between the subject property and the purported comparable sales. Any residual relevance of the comparable properties in Exhibit A is further undermined by the lack of any time-of-sale adjustment accounting for possible market appreciation between the sale dates and the January 1, 2019, valuation date. Complainant’s comparable sales analysis does not include the necessary market-based adjustments and, therefore, does not constitute substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the BOE’s presumptively correct valuation and establishing the “value that should have been placed on the property.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346; see also In re Marriage of Patrick, 201 S.W.3d 591, 598 (Mo. App. S.D. 2006) (holding the circuit court properly disregarded a “comparative market analysis” that failed to make monetary adjustments to account for property differences because the analysis “did not meet the requirements of the comparable sale approach method for valuation of real estate”). Complainant’s overvaluation claim is denied.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE’s decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $1,056,100.
Application for Review
A party may file with the STC 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 of Missouri, 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.
The Collector of St. Louis County, and 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 the disputed taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.
SO ORDERED September 18, 2020.
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 September 18, 2020, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
Contact Information for State Tax Commission:
Missouri State Tax Commission
421 East Dunklin Street
P.O. Box 146
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146