STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|JOHN T. VOLLMER,||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-10199|
|)||Parcel No. 07G110253|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
John T. Vollmer (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (Respondent) decision valuing the subject residential property at $341,700 as of January 1, 2021. Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserts the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property as $306,900 as of January 1, 2021. The BOE decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was held on June 1, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The appeal was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin C. Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential property consists of a seven acre lot improved with a single family home located at 4252 Alderwood Dr., Black Jack, Missouri. Complainant testified that the house was built around the year 2000 and has about 2,400 or 2,500 square feet of living space. The house has one bedroom on the main level and three on the lower level. Complainant purchased the property in 2006 for $445,000 which he noted was “bad timing” due to the real estate market sales prices being very high at that time. Complainant renovated the kitchen about three years ago. Complainant has not made any other significant improvements to the property recently.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent determined that the subject property’s total appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $494,000. The BOE independently determined the subject property’s appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $341,700.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant’s testified that his opinion of value for the subject property as of January 1, 2021, is $306,900. To support this value, Complainant introduced Exhibit A, which was a chart of properties near the subject used in the 2019 assessment of the subject. Exhibit A compares the percentage increases of assessment by Respondent of those properties with the subject from 2019 to 2021. Exhibit A was admitted without objection.
Complainant’s essential argument is that the rate of assessment increase for the subject property is higher than the comparables used by Respondent in 2019. Therefore, Complainant calculated an aggregate average rate of increase for these properties from 2019 to 2021 and arrived at an average increase rate of 13%. He then asserts that this percentage should be used in appraising his property. Using this percentage increase from 2019, Complainant arrived at a TVM of $306,900 for January 1, 2021. Complainant also testified as to the percentage rate increases for the subject property for the 2015 and 2017 assessments of his property, stating that they were disproportionate to surrounding properties and much higher than Respondent’s averaged assessment of those properties average. Complainant did not offer any comparable sales for consideration.
Complainant testified that he is not a licensed appraiser in the state of Missouri, nor does he have professional training or experience in that field for making market-based adjustments to comparable sales to determine a TVM for a subject property.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, consisting of the October 29, 2021, BOE decision letter for the subject property. Exhibit 1 shows the BOE valued the subject property at $341,700. Exhibit 1 was admitted without objection.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $341,700.
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. Sections 137.115.1; 137.115.5(1)(a). The TVM is “the fair market value of the property on the valuation date[.]” 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). “True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange not value in use.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020) (internal quotation omitted). The TVM “is a function of [the property’s] highest and best use[.]” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. “Determining the true value in money is an issue of fact for the STC.” Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008).
The TVM of a property is typically determined by the sales comparison approach, the income approach, or the cost approach. Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d at 346-48.
- 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). “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).
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof. The taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence the property is overvalued. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7. The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous.” Id. (internal quotation omitted). The taxpayer also 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 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 the “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”).
Property owners are competent to testify to the reasonable fair market value of their property. Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348. However, if owner’s testimony is based on “improper elements or an improper foundation[,]” it is not substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. Id. at 349.
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. Complainant did not produce evidence supporting a comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to value.
Neither Complainant’s exhibits nor his testimony utilized the comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to support his proposed value. No comparable sales were cited or analyzed by Complainant, nor did he offer an appraisal of the property as evidence of the TVM of the property as of January 1, 2021. Complainant’s method of using average percentage increases in assessed value of neighboring properties and applying it to the subject property is not an acceptable approach to determining the TVM of a subject property.
The lack of evidence relating to a recognized valuation method renders Complainant’s proposed value speculative and unpersuasive. See Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 349 (holding an opinion of value loses probative value when based on an improper foundation). Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing the BOE overvalued the subject property and “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $341,700.
Application for Review
A party may file 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. 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, 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 October 7, 2022.
Benjamin C. Slawson
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 October 7, 2022, 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, sec. 14; Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.