STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|v.||)||Appeal No. 15-10036|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
ORDER AFFIRMING HEARING OFFICER DECISION
On August 31, 2016, Senior Hearing Officer Amy Westermann (Hearing Officer) issued her order affirming the St. Louis County Board of Equalization (BOE). Respondent set a true market value (TMV) on the subject property at $395,100. The BOE sustained Respondent’s TMV of the subject property. The Hearing Officer found that Complainant failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence demonstrating market value. Complainant subsequently filed an Application for Review of the Decision with the State Tax Commission (the Commission). Respondent timely filed a Response. Complainant timely filed a Reply.
Standard Upon Review
A party subject to a Decision and Order of a Hearing Officer with the State Tax Commission may file an application requesting the case be reviewed by the Commission. The Commission may then summarily allow or deny their request. The Commission may affirm, modify, reverse or set aside the decision. The Commission may take any additional evidence and conduct further hearings.
Complainant’s Application for Review/ Appeal Brief
Within 30 days of issuance of a decision by a Hearing Officer, a party may request the Commission review the decision. Section 138.432 RSMo. Complainant requested a review by the Commission. Complainant’s request focuses on the cost to remediate, comparative properties, interior inspections, his opinion of market value and the procedural process of ad valorem appeals.
DISCUSSION AND RULING
The Commission will not lightly interfere with the Hearing Officer’s Decision and substitute its judgment on the credibility of witnesses and weight to be given the evidence for that of the Hearing Officer as the trier of fact. Black v. Lombardi, 970 S.W.2d 378 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998); Lowe v. Lombardi, 957 S.W.2d 808 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997); Forms World, Inc. v. Labor and Industrial Relations Com’n, 935 S.W.2d 680 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996); Evangelical Retirement Homes v. STC, 669 S.W.2d 548 (Mo. 1984); Pulitzer Pub. Co. v. Labor and Indus. Relations Commission, 596 S.W.2d 413 (Mo. 1980); St. Louis County v. STC, 562 S.W.2d 334 (Mo. 1978); St. Louis County v. STC, 406 S.W.2d 644 (Mo. 1966).
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).
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 and persuasive evidence on the taxpayer. The presumption of correct assessment is rebutted when the taxpayer presents substantial and persuasive evidence to establish that the Board’s valuation is erroneous and what the fair market value should have been placed on the property. Hermel, supra; Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959).
The subject property consists of a 1.01 acre residential lot by a single-family, ranch-style home built in 1964. Complainant testified that he had purchased the subject property in September 2010 for an amount in the “high $400s.” Complainant testified that the subject property had been owned by his mother and had not been publicly advertised for sale. Complainant testified that his opinion of the subject property’s TMV as of January 1, 2015, was $350,000. Complainant offered exhibits A through BBB. The exhibits were offered to establish that the improvements are in need of extensive repairs. Complainant conceded that a purchaser would be best served by tearing down the existing home and building a new home rather than repairing the current home. In other words, Complainant acknowledged that the highest and best use of the subject property would be to utilize the lot for the construction of a new residence.
Respondents Appraiser analyzed three comparable sales, all of which were located less than a half mile from and on the same street as the subject property. (Exhibit 1) The actual sale prices of Respondent’s comparables ranged from $484,500 to $643,000. Respondent’s comparables had all been sold prior to being either completely renovated or torn down and a new home being built on the lot. After analyzing the market data tied to the similarities and differences between the subject property and the comparables, the Appraiser concluded that the subject property had a value of $545,000 “as is” on January 1, 2015.
Complainant failed to state any facts which tend to demonstrate that the decision of the Hearing Officer was erroneous, arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, unreasonable or contrary to Missouri law. After a review of the record, the Commission finds that Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization. The Respondent presented evidence in the form of a certified appraiser who opined that the subject property had a TMV of $545,000 as of January 1, 2015, which clearly supported the BOE’s valuation of $395,100 as of January 1, 2015.
The Commission also finds no error by the Hearing Officer in the determinations as to the admissibility and weight to be given exhibits in this appeal. A review of the record clearly shows that the Hearing Officer afforded the Complainant in this appeal all appropriate courtesies, gave Complainant wide breadth in presenting his case and erred on the side of admitting evidence, other than evidence which the Hearing Officer believed was clearly inadmissible under the rules of evidence. The Commission finds no error by the Hearing Officer in weighing the evidence and applying the legal standard.
The Decision and Order of the Hearing Officer, including the findings of fact and conclusions of law is AFFIRMED. It is incorporated by reference, as if set forth herein verbatim, in full, in this final decision of the Commission.
Judicial review of this Order may be had in the manner provided in Sections 138.432 and 536.100 to 536.140, RSMo within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Order.
If judicial review of this decision is made, any protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accordance with this appeal shall be held pending the final decision of the courts unless disbursed pursuant to Section 139.031.8, RSMo.
If no judicial review is made within thirty days, this decision and order is deemed final and the Collector of St. Louis County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall disburse the protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accord with the decision on the underlying assessment in this appeal.
SO ORDERED this 27th day of December, 2016.
STATE TAX COMMISSION
Bruce E. Davis, Chairman
Victor Callahan, Commissioner
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 27th day of December, 2016, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainant, the county Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and county Collector.
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
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|v.||)||Appeal No. 15-10036|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
The assessment made by the Board of Equalization of St. Louis County (BOE) is AFFIRMED. Complainant Joseph Hunter (Complainant) did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, St. Louis County Assessor, (Respondent) presented substantial and persuasive evidence to support the BOE’s valuation of the subject property as of January 1, 2015.
Complainant Joseph Hunter appeared pro se.
Respondent appeared by Steven Robson, Assistant County Counselor.
Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Amy S. Westermann.
Complainant appealed on the ground of overvaluation. Respondent initially set the true market value (TMV) of the subject property, as residential property, at $395,100. The BOE sustained Respondent’s valuation at $395,100. The Commission takes this appeal to determine the TMV of the subject property on January 1, 2015.
The Senior 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.
- Evidentiary Hearing. The issue of overvaluation was presented at an evidentiary hearing on May 19, 2016, at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, Missouri.
- Identification of Subject Property. The subject property is identified by parcel/locator number 19N540136. It is further identified as 60 Villa Coublay Dr., St. Louis, Missouri. (Complaint; Exhibit 1)
- Description of Subject Property. The subject property consists of a 1.01 acre residential lot improved by a 2,560 square foot, single-family, ranch-style home built in 1964. (Exhibit 1) The subject property includes two bedrooms above grade; two full bathrooms and one half bathroom above grade; a full basement with 1,650 square feet of finished area that includes a recreation room, two bedrooms, and two full bathrooms; a two-car attached oversized garage; one fireplace; a deck; a patio; and a pool. The exterior consists of brick construction. (Exhibit 1)
- Assessment. Respondent set a TMV on the subject property at $395,100 residential, as of January 1, 2015.
- Board of Equalization. The BOE sustained Respondent’s TMV of the subject property.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant testified in his own behalf. Complainant testified that he had purchased the subject property in September 2010 for an amount in the “high $400s.” Complainant testified that the subject property had been owned by his mother and had not been publicly advertised for sale. Complainant testified that he purchased the subject property following a dispute with his siblings. Complainant testified that the subject property was not encumbered by a mortgage, that it had not been listed for sale or appraised within the three years preceding the Evidentiary Hearing, and that he had not received any offers to purchase the subject property. Complainant testified that he had not made improvements to the subject property between January 2013 and January 2015 because the subject property was considered a “tear down,” and any improvements would be “too costly.” Complainant testified that his opinion of the subject property’s TMV as of January 1, 2015, was $350,000.
Complainant offered the following evidence:
|A||Bid for Pella rear entry door replacement – proposed cost $2,269.91|
|B||Bid for Berry three entry doors replacement – proposed cost $4,260.00|
|C||Bid for Pella northeast entry door replacement – proposed cost $2,669.93|
|D||Bid for Leafguard gutter guards installation – proposed cost $12,488.00|
|E||Bid for Overhead Door Company garage door replacement – proposed cost $3,168.00|
|F||Bid for Davis Construction Company brick paver exterior front entry replacement — $10,675.00|
|G||Bid for Precision Door of St. Louis door replacement – proposed cost $2,722.00|
|H||Bid for Advantage Paint Systems wood balcony/deck replacement – proposed cost $23,250.00|
|I||Bid for Woemmel Plastering ceiling refinish – proposed cost $1,575.00|
|J||Bid for Aerotech Gutters repair/installation – proposed cost $20,748.00|
|K||Bid for American Locksmith lock repair/installation – proposed cost $243.08|
|L||Bid for Meyer Landscaping planning services – proposed cost $850.00|
|M||Bid for American Exteriors gutter and downspout installation – proposed cost $27,216.00|
|N||Bid for Morgneir Air Conditioning & Heating HVAC replacement – proposed cost $20,336.00|
|O||Bid for Pella windows and French doors replacement – proposed cost $100,389.64 to $132,995.22|
|P||Bid for Tree Away Tree Service removal and trimming services – proposed cost $6,375.00|
|Q||Bid for Davis Construction chimney repair/replacement – proposed cost $1,325.00|
|R||Bid for Owen Tuckpointing chimney flue liner installation – proposed cost $900.00|
|S||Bid for Arei, LLC, gutter replacement/repair – proposed cost $15,088.00|
|T||Bid for Davis Construction sidewalk repair – proposed cost $820.00|
|U||Bid for Woods Basement Systems, Inc., drain installation, labor and materials – proposed cost $23,062.00|
|V||Bid for Davis Construction tuckpointing sidewalk – proposed cost $435.00|
|W||Bid for Davis Construction tuckpointing sidewalk – proposed cost $625.00|
|X||Bid for Victor Shade Co. interior window shades – proposed cost $13,015.71|
|Y||Bid for Holmes Brick and Stone, LLC, tuckpointing chimney – proposed cost $1,200.00|
|Z||Bid for Fitzgibbons Painting, LLC, exterior and interior painting – proposed cost $26,535.00|
|AA||Bid for Foundation Specialists drain installation, labor and materials – proposed cost $4,795.00|
|BB||Bid for Common Cents drain replacement, labor and materials – proposed cost $2,400.00|
|CC||Bid for Common Cents installation of French drain, labor and materials – proposed cost $4,519.00|
|DD||Bid for Fielder Electrical Services, Inc., electrical panel replacement, update wiring, generator installation – proposed cost $15,105.00|
|EE||Bid for Martin Door Co., Inc., door replacement – proposed cost $2,425.00|
|FF||Bid for Biobased Insulation installation – proposed cost $2,600.00|
|GG||Bid for Fence Formations fence and gate replacement – proposed cost $26,475.00|
|HH||Bid for Wood Floors Just Around the Corner wood floor repairs – proposed cost $4,887.00|
|II||Bid for Holiday Heating and Cooling air conditioner replacement – proposed cost $4,693.00|
|JJ||Bid for Premier Skylights, LLC, retrofitting and installation of skylights – proposed cost $15,066.00|
|MM||Bid for Frederic Co., Inc, remove and replace roofing and install gutters, labor and materials – proposed cost $25,191.00|
|NN||Bid for Precision Irrigation installation of fully automatic in-ground sprinkler system – proposed cost $6,685.00|
|OO||Bid for Meyer Landscaping, Inc., remove existing driveway and install new asphalt driveway – proposed cost $16,866.00|
|PP||Bid for O’Brien Swimming Pool Service repair/replacement services – proposed cost $32,435.00|
|Bid for Tree Away Tree Service|
|RR||Bid for The Garage Door Co. of St. Louis, LLC, repair garage door spring plus replace garage doors and openers – actual cost of repair $130.15 + proposed cost approximately $4,300.00|
|SS||Bid for Amazing Siding and Windows install insulation in garage – proposed cost $3,624.00|
|TT||Bid for Celtic Painting exterior painting, labor and materials – proposed cost $11,610.00|
|UU||Bid for St. Louis Wood Floor Co. repair and replace wood floors – proposed cost $33,021.00|
|VV||Bid for John Beal Roofing full roof replacement – proposed cost $17,199.00|
|WW||Bid for Shamrock Concrete full driveway, walkways, and edging replacement with stamped concrete – proposed cost $46,027.00|
|XX||Bid for G&P Concrete full driveway replacement with exposed stamped aggregate concrete – proposed cost $69,990.00|
|YY||Bid for Topps Paving & Sealing, LLC, installation of Gabion wall for erosion control along property line and creek – proposed cost $29,500.00|
|ZZ||Photograph showing area of subject property allegedly eroding into creek|
|AAA||Letter of complaint regarding erosion from Complainant to Metropolitan Sewer District|
|BBB||St. Louis Real Estate Tax History of properties adjoining subject property|
Respondent objected to Exhibit ZZ on the ground that the photograph lacked foundation and constituted hearsay because nothing was presented to substantiate that officials from Ameren UE or Metropolitan Sewer District had told Complainant that the property line would actually sink into the creek. The Senior Hearing Officer sustained the objection and excluded ZZ from evidence. Respondent objected to Exhibit AAA on the ground that it lacked foundation to establish that the letter was actually sent to or received by Metropolitan Sewer District. The Senior Hearing Officer sustained the objection and excluded Exhibit AAA but allowed Complainant to testify concerning his complaint to Metropolitan Sewer District regarding the erosion along the property line. Respondent objected to Exhibit BBB on the ground that the information contained in the exhibit lacked foundation because Complainant was not the individual who had obtained the information and had printed it. Respondent then objected on the ground that Exhibit BBB was not relevant to establishing the TMV of the subject property. The Senior Hearing Officer overruled the objections to Exhibit BBB, which was received into the record to be given the weight deemed appropriate in the context of all the other evidence. Respondent did not object to Complainant’s other evidence, which was received into the record.
On cross examination, Complainant testified that if all of the repairs were performed according to the bids he had obtained, the cost of the repairs would go well above $350,000. Complainant further testified that he had obtained all of the bids to support “the devaluation of the house.” Complainant testified that he did not even obtain bids for additional necessary repairs to the electrical system and the plumbing system. Complainant conceded that the cost of materials and labor to repair the house would “override the simplicity of tearing it down” and building a new house.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered as evidence the testimony of Missouri State Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser Gerald D. Keeven, Jr., (Appraiser) along with the Appraiser’s report (Exhibit 1). The Appraiser opined that the TMV of the subject property as of January 1, 2015, was $545,000.  The Appraiser testified that he utilized the sales comparison approach to arrive at his opinion of value. The Appraiser testified that he had chosen three comparable properties that had sold within three years of January 1, 2015. The Appraiser viewed the exterior of the subject property, but Complainant did not allow the Appraiser to inspect the exterior or the interior of the subject property or its condition. The Appraiser further testified that because many of the bids for repair and replacement were outdated and given that he had not been permitted to inspect the subject property, the Appraiser presumed the subject property was in average condition based on his limited viewing of the exterior. The Appraiser made market based adjustments to the comparable properties based on square footage; the number of bedrooms and bathrooms; the amount of finished square footage in the basements; the size of the garage; patios and decks; the number of fireplaces; and whether the comparable properties included a pool. (Exhibit A) The Appraiser also made a $75,000 negative adjustment to Comparable No. 3 because it had been recently updated and remodeled. Complainant objected to the Appraiser’s Report on the ground that he had documentation from a previous tax appeal of the subject property that Respondent had classified the subject property as a tear down. Hearing no legal objection, the Senior Hearing Officer overruled the objection, and the Appraiser’s Report was received into the record.
On cross examination, the Appraiser testified that the even though the subject property was in need of extensive repair and considered a “tear down,” the comparable properties in the same neighborhood had sale prices ranging between $484,500 and $643,000. The adjusted sale prices of the comparables ranged between $524,100 and $565,800. The homes of the comparable properties were similar to the subject property in size, age, and condition when they were sold. However, each of the homes had been either torn down and a larger, more expensive home rebuilt or had been gutted and completely renovated subsequent to the sales.
- Presumption of Correct Assessment Rebutted – Value Established. Respondent’s evidence met the standard of substantial and persuasive to establish the value of the subject, as of January 1, 2015, to be $545,000. However, Respondent’s appraisal was accepted only to sustain the original assessment made by Respondent and sustained by the BOE and not for the purpose of raising the assessment above that value. Respondent met the standard of clear, convincing and cogent evidence in this appeal to sustain the original valuation of $395,100.
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, including the application of any abatement. The Senior 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.
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 true value in money 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 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. 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 his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Id.
During the hearing, the Senior Hearing Officer inquired of Complainant and of the Appraiser.
Complainant’s Burden of Proof
To obtain a reduction in assessed valuation based upon an alleged overvaluation, the Complainant must prove the true value in money of the subject property on the subject tax day. Hermel, Inc., v. State Tax Commission, 564 S.W.2d 888, 897 (Mo. banc 1978). True value in money 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). True value in money 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, true value in money is the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date. Hermel, Inc., 564 S.W.2d at 897.
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 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.” 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 Commission “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).
Weight to be Given Evidence
The Hearing Officer is not bound by any single formula, rule, or method in determining true value in money and 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 deemed necessary when viewed in connection with all other circumstances. Beardsley v. Beardsley, 819 S.W.2d 400, 403 (Mo. App. W.D. 1991). The Hearing Officer, as the trier of fact, is not bound by the opinions of experts but may believe all or none of the expert’s testimony or accept it in part or reject it in part. Exchange Bank of Missouri v. Gerlt, 367 S.W.3d 132, 135-36 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012).
Board Presumption and Computer-Assisted Presumption
There exists a presumption of correct assessment by the BOE – the BOE presumption. In charter counties or the City of St. Louis, there exists by statutory mandate a presumption that the Assessor’s original valuation was made by a computer, computer-assisted method or a computer program – the computer-assisted presumption. These two presumptions operate with regard to the parties in different ways.
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 it also would be applicable to the Respondent.
The computer-assisted presumption is applicable only if (1) the BOE lowered the value of the Assessor and Respondent is seeking to sustain the original assessment and (2) it has not been shown that the Assessor’s valuation was not the result of a computer assisted method. The BOE’s valuation is assumed to be an independent valuation.
In the present appeal, the BOE sustained the initial valuation of Respondent, and Complainant is seeking to change the BOE’s assessment; therefore, only the BOE presumption applies while the computer-assisted presumption is not applicable.
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.
Evidence of Increase in Value
In any case in charter counties or the City of St. Louis where the assessor presents evidence that indicates a valuation higher than the value finally determined by the assessor or the value determined by the BOE, whichever is higher, for that assessment period, such evidence will only be received for the purpose of sustaining the assessor’s or board’s valuation and not for increasing the valuation of the property under appeal. Section 138.060 RSMo (2000) as amended; 12 CSR 30-3.075. The evidence presented by the Respondent was substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE and establish the fair market value of the property under appeal, as of January 1, 2015, to be $545,000. However, the assessed value cannot be increased above $395,100 in this particular appeal. CSR 30-3.075; State ex rel. Ashby Road Partners, LLC et al. v. STC and Muehlheausler, 297 S.W.3d 80, 87-88 (Mo. banc 2009).
Highest and Best Use
True value in money is the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date and is a function of the subject property’s highest and best use, which is the use of the property that will produce the greatest return in the reasonably near future. Aspenhof Corp. v. State Tax Commission, 789 S.W.2d 867, 869 (Mo. App. E.D. 1990). It is true that property can only be valued according to a use to which the property is readily available. However, this does not mean that in order for a specific use to be the highest and best use for calculating the property’s value in money, that particular use must be available to anyone deciding to purchase the property. A determination of the true value in money cannot reject the property’s highest and best use and value the property at a lesser economic use of the property. Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348-49.
This case requires the consideration of the highest and best use of the subject property in relation to choosing the most appropriate appraisal method for valuing the subject property.
Complainant testified and presented voluminous evidence to support his argument that the subject property is in need of extensive repair and should be devalued due to its deteriorated state. However, this evidence was neither substantial nor persuasive to support an opinion as to the true market value of the subject property as of January 1, 2015. Substantial evidence is that which is relevant, adequate, and reasonably supports a conclusion. Cupples Hesse Corp., 329 S.W.2d at 702. Persuasive evidence is that which causes the trier of fact to believe, more likely than not, the conclusion advocated is the correct conclusion. Id.
Complainant did not establish the depreciated value of the subject property in the first instance; thus, it is impossible to know how the replacement costs shown in the bids would affect the value of the subject property. Furthermore, on cross examination, Complainant conceded that a purchaser would be best served by tearing down the existing home and building a new home rather than repairing the current home. In other words, Complainant acknowledged that the highest and best use of the subject property would be to utilize the lot for the construction of a new residence. Consequently, to derive a value for the subject property, an analysis of market data involving similar “tear down” properties using the comparable sales approach was necessary.
The Appraiser analyzed three comparable sales, all of which were located less than a half mile from and on the same street as the subject property. (Exhibit 1) The actual sale prices of Respondent’s comparables ranged from $484,500 to $643,000. Respondent’s comparables had all been sold prior to being either completely renovated or torn down and a new home being built on the lot. After analyzing the market data tied to the similarities and differences between the subject property and the comparables, the Appraiser concluded that the subject property had a value of $545,000 “as is” on January 1, 2015.
Comparable No. 1, prior to being torn down, had less square footage on both the main level and in the basement than the subject property, had a smaller garage and only a patio, and lacked a pool. (Exhibit 1) Comparable No. 2, prior to being gutted and completely renovated, had more square footage on the main level but less square footage in the basement than the subject property, had a smaller garage and only a deck, and lacked a pool. (Exhibit 1) Comparable No. 3, prior to being completely renovated, was similar to the subject property but had been recently renovated with square footage added. The Appraiser made market based adjustments to Comparable No. 3 to account for the renovation and additional square footage. The adjusted sale prices of the comparables ranged from $524,100 to $565,800. The Appraiser placed equal weight on all three comparables to arrive at an opinion that the subject property’s TMV on January 1, 2015, was $545,000.
Although it is reasonable to find and conclude that Respondent rebutted the presumption of correct valuation by the BOE and that the TMV of the subject property on January 1, 2015, was $545,000, such evidence was received and considered only for the purpose of sustaining the BOE’s valuation of $395,100 and not for increasing the valuation of the subject property in this appeal.
The true market valuation for the subject property as determined by the BOE is AFFIRMED. The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2015 and 2016 is set at $75,060 residential ($395,100 TMV).
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
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 August 31, 2016.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Amy S. Westermann
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been sent electronically or mailed postage prepaid this 31st day of August, 2016, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainant, the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 No exhibits labeled KK and LL were introduced into evidence.
 Exhibit QQ was a duplicate of Exhibit P and, therefore, was not considered in the determination of this Decision.
 Respondent’s proposed valuation following the Appraiser’s analysis was higher than the BOE’s assessment of the subject property’s value; however, Respondent did not advocate increasing the BOE’s assessment of the subject property’s value.
 Many of the bids and estimates had been obtained several years prior to the subject tax date. Some of the bids had been obtained as far back as the early 2000s.
 The Senior Hearing Officer notes that the subject property has been assigned a total assessed valuation of $395,100 since January 1, 2011. During the evidentiary hearing, Complainant mentioned that the land valuation had increased approximately $70,000 from the previous tax cycle. According to the St. Louis County Department of Revenue Real Estate Information database, the land value increased from 2013 to 2015 while the value of the improvements, i.e., the home, decreased by an equivalent amount, resulting in the same total assessed valuation from 2013 to 2015.