State Tax Commission of Missouri
|JACK & ANNE SCOVILLE,||)|
|)||Appeal Number 13-11749|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Decision of the County Board of Equalization sustaining the assessment made by the Assessor is SET ASIDE. Respondent presents substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board of Equalization.
True value in money for the subject property for tax years 2013 and 2014 is set at $389,350, residential assessed value of $73,980.
Complainant appeared pro se.
Respondent appeared by attorney Paula Lemerman
Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer John Treu.
Complainant appeals, on the ground of overvaluation, the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization, which sustained the valuation of the subject property. The Commission takes this appeal to determine the true value in money for the subject property on January 1, 2013 and to determine if there was overvaluation. 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 and 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
- Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization.
- Evidentiary Hearing. The Evidentiary Hearing was held on August 6, 2014 at St. Louis County Administration Building, Clayton, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by map parcel number or locator number 30W530218. It is further identified as 1024 Stone Spring Court, Eureka, St. Louis County, Missouri.(Complainants’ Complaint, Ex. A and Ex. 1)
- Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of a 22,500 square foot tract of land improved by a single family, residential two story style home with a quality rating that meets or exceeds the requirements of the applicable building codes, with 3,345 square feet of living area. Amenities include four bedrooms, four and a half baths, a fireplace, a three car attached garage, a deck and a patio. (Ex. 1)
- Assessment. The Assessor appraised the property at $403,400, an assessed residential value of $76,650. The Board of Equalization sustained the assessment. (Complainants Complaint and Ex. 1).
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainants’ offered into evidence Exhibit 1 – Appraisal Report dated 5/20/2014 with an Effective Date of 1/1/13 – Charles Gillick, Mo. State Certified Real Estate Appraiser. Exhibit A was received into evidence without objection; although, Respondent’s Counsel reserved any objection until after cross examination. Exhibit B, pictures of the interior of the subject property was also offered, was objected to, objection was overruled and the exhibit was received into the evidentiary record, subject to the weight to be given it.
- No Evidence of New Construction & Improvement. There was no evidence of new construction and improvement from January 1, 2013, to January 1, 2014, therefore the assessed value for 2013 remains the assessed value for 2014. Section 137.115.1, RSMo.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered into evidence Exhibit 1 – Appraisal Report dated 5/22/2014 with an Effective Date of 1/1/13 – Mark Stuart, Mo. State Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser. Exhibit 1 was received into evidence without objection. Respondents also offered into evidence Exhibit 2, an MLS Sheet on 762 Southern Hills Drive, Eureka, MO. Exhibit 2 was received into evidence without objection. Respondent also offered into evidence Exhibit 3, a document showing sold properties in each subdivision of the Legends. Exhibit 3 was received into evidence, without objection for the sole purpose of showing sales and as not relevant to the actual appraised value of the subject property.
- Presumption of Correct Assessment Rebutted. Respondent’s evidence was substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board and establish the true value in money as of January 1, 2013, to be $389,350.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION
The Commission 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 board of equalization, 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.
Presumption In Appeal
There is a presumption of validity, good faith and correctness of assessment by the County Board of Equalization. Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650, 656 (Mo. 1968); May Department Stores Co. v. STC, 308 S.W.2d 748, 759 (Mo. 1958). It places the burden of going forward with some substantial evidence on the taxpayer – Complainant.
Complainants’ Burden of Proof
In order to prevail, Complainants must present an opinion of market value and substantial and persuasive evidence that the proposed value is indicative of the market value of the subject property on January 1, 2013. Hermel, supra. There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. The taxpayer in a Commission 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.” See, 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); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. 1991). A valuation which does not reflect the fair market value (true value in money) of the property under appeal is an unlawful, unfair and improper assessment.
Respondent’s Burden of Proof
Respondent, when advocating a value different from that determined by the original valuation or a valuation made by the Board of Equalization, must meet the same burden of proof to present substantial and persuasive evidence of the value advocated as required of the Complainant under the principles established by case law. Hermel, Cupples-Hesse, Brooks, supra.
Standard for Valuation
Section 137.115, RSMo, requires that property be assessed based upon its true value in money which is defined as the price a property would bring when offered for sale by one willing or desirous to sell and bought by one who is willing or desirous to purchase but who is not compelled to do so. St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. State Tax Commission, 854 S.W.2d 526, 529 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993); Missouri Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Commission, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo. banc 1993). True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange and not value in use. Daly v. P. D. George Company, et al, 77 S.W.3d 645, 649 (Mo. App E.D. 2002), citing, Equitable Life Assurance Society v. STC, 852 S.W.2d 376, 380 (Mo. App. 1993); citing, Stephen & Stephen Properties, Inc. v. STC, 499 S.W.2d 798, 801-803 (Mo. 1973).
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, at 615 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000); Hermel, supra; 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. Div. 2 1974).
Both appraisers developed only the sales comparison approach. Both appraisers used 762 Southern Hills Drive, Eureka, MO as a comparable (Complainants Comparable #1 and Respondents Comparable #2). Complainants’ appraisal placed a value of $361,800 on such comparable, including a downward adjustment of $30,000 for building upgrades (as compared to the subject property). Respondent’s appraiser placed a value of $379,200 on such comparable. As Complainants’ did not allow an interior inspection of the subject property a negative inference will be drawn that the downward adjustment of $30,000 by the Complainants’ appraiser will not be allowed, to the extent such discount on such comparable reduces the value to the comparable below the value set by Respondent’s appraiser, such being $379,200.
Respondent’s appraiser gave most weight to Respondents comparable #1 as it is the same model as the subject property and due to the minimal adjustments required. However, both Respondent’s and Complainants’ appraisers used Respondents comparable #2. As stated previously, Respondent’s comparable # 2 is the same property as Complainants’ comparable #1. This hearing officer determined that equal weight should be given to such comparables, and the values assigned to such by Respondent’s appraiser (Comparable #1- $399,500, Comparable #2- $379,200). The average value of these comparables equals $389,350.
Investigation by Hearing Officer
In order to investigate appeals filed with the Commission, 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. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Section 138.430.2, RSMo. The Hearing Officer during the evidentiary hearing made inquiry of Complainant and Respondent’s appraiser.
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 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).
The Hearing Officer as the trier of fact may consider the testimony of an expert witness and give it as much weight and credit as he may deem it entitled to when viewed in connection with all other circumstances. The Hearing Officer is not bound by the opinions of experts who testify on the issue of reasonable value, but may believe all or none of the expert’s testimony and accept it in part or reject it in part. St. Louis County v. Boatmen’s Trust Co., 857 S.W.2d 453, 457 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993); Vincent by Vincent v. Johnson, 833 S.W.2d 859, 865 (Mo. 1992); Beardsley v. Beardsley, 819 S.W.2d 400, 403 (Mo. App. 1991); Curnow v. Sloan, 625 S.W.2d 605, 607 (Mo. banc 1981).
Opinion Testimony by Experts
An expert’s opinion must be founded upon substantial information, not mere conjecture or speculation, and there must be a rational basis for the opinion. Missouri Pipeline Co. v. Wilmes, 898 S.W. 2d 682, 687 (Mo. App. E.D. 1995).The state tax commission cannot ignore a lack of support in the evidence for adjustments made by the expert witnesses in the application of a particular valuation approach. Drey v. State Tax Commission, 345 S.W. 2d 228, 234-236 (Mo. 1961), Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W. 3d, 341, 348 (Mo. 2005).
The testimony of an expert is to be considered like any other testimony, is to be tried by the same test, and receives just so much weight and credit as the trier of fact may deem it entitled to when viewed in connection with all other circumstances. The Hearing Officer, as the trier of fact, has the authority to weigh the evidence and is not bound by the opinions of experts who testify on the issue of reasonable value, but may believe all or none of the expert’s testimony and may accept it in part or reject it in part. Beardsley v. Beardsley, 819 S.W. 2d 400, 403 (Mo. App. 1991); Curnow v. Sloan, 625 S.W. 2d 605, 607 (Mo. 1981); Scanlon v. Kansas City, 28 S.W. 2d 84, 95 (Mo. 1930).
If specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert on that subject, by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto.
The facts or data upon which an expert bases an opinion or inference may be those perceived by or made known to the expert at or before the hearing and must be of a type reasonably relied upon by experts in the field in forming opinions or inferences upon the subject and must be otherwise reliable, the facts or data need not be admissible in evidence.
Section 490.065, RSMo; State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts v. McDonagh, 123 S.W.3d 146 (Mo. SC. 2004); Courtroom Handbook on Missouri Evidence, Wm. A. Schroeder, Sections 702-505, pp. 325-350; Wulfing v. Kansas City Southern Industries, Inc., 842 S.W.2d 133 (Mo. App. E.D. 1992).
The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization for St. Louis County for the subject tax day is SET ASIDE.
The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2013 and 2014 is set at $73,980 (True Market Value as of 1/1/2013 of $389,350).
SO ORDERED this 18th day of August, 2014.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
Delivery or Notice was made to the following Individuals on August 18th, 2014 of this Decision and Order Holding
Jack & Anne Scoville, Complainants, email@example.com
Paula Lemerman, Associate County Counsel, Attorney for Respondent, PLemerman@stlouisco.com
Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Devore, Collector, email@example.com
Genevieve Frank, Clerk, firstname.lastname@example.org