STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|)||Appeal No. 17-10266|
|Complainant,||)||Parcel/Loc. No. 23R110264|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,
DECISION AND ORDER
The decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization (BOE) is AFFIRMED. Complainant Joseph Suleiman (Complainant) did not present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE.
The evidentiary hearing in this case was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m., May 2, 2018, at the St. Louis County Government Administration Building in Clayton, Missouri. Complainant and his counsel of record, Mark Schulte, failed to appear at the evidentiary hearing and failed to prosecute the appeal. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, (Respondent) appeared by Counsel Steve Robson, who announced ready for trial. Case decided by Senior Hearing Officer Amy S. Westermann (Hearing Officer).
Complainant appealed on the ground of overvaluation. Respondent initially set the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property at $157,200, as residential property, as of January 1, 2017. The BOE found the TVM of the subject property to be $135,000 as of January 1, 2017, thereby lowering 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 Hearing Officer enters the following Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the STC.
- The subject property is located at 324 Ries Bend Road, St. Louis County, Missouri. The property is identified by Parcel/Locator number 23R110264.
- By Order dated December 11, 2017, (December 2017 Order) this case was set for a Good Faith Meeting between the parties, to occur in person or by telephone, on or before February 2, 2018, at the office of Respondent or such other reasonable location agreed upon by counsel for the parties. The December 2017 Order stated that, if no resolution of the appeal resulted from the Good Faith Meeting, the parties should adhere to the following schedule:
|DISCOVERY AND EXCHANGE SCHEDULE|
|Good Faith Meeting of Counsel for the Parties||On or before 02/02/18|
|Joint Status Report on progress of appeal to SHO (by email)||02/09/18|
|Complainant’s Written Certification to Prosecute Appeals||On or before 02/16/18|
|Initial Disclosures by Both Parties||On or before 02/23/18|
|Simultaneous Filing and Exchange of Exhibits and Written Direct Testimony and Expert Disclosures||On or before 03/23/18|
|Objections and Rebuttal Evidence||04/06/18|
|Responses to Objections and Surrebuttal Evidence||04/20/18|
|Evidentiary Hearings||05/02/18 9:00 a.m.|
- The December 2017 Order stated that, if a motion for continuance needed to be filed, it must be filed not less than five days before the date specified for the event which stands to be affected by the motion, not including intermediate Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays, pursuant to 12 CSR 30-3.050(6) and Missouri Rule of Civil Procedure 44.01(a).
- On February 2, 2018, pursuant to the December 2017 Order, counsel for the parties filed a joint status report with the Hearing Officer via email. On March 2, 2018, counsel for Complainant filed Complainant’s initial disclosures and an appraisal report. Counsel for Respondent subsequently filed Respondent’s expert’s evidence and exhibits.
- At 4:25 p.m. on May 1, 2018, counsel for Respondent sent an email message to counsel for Complainant notifying him of the room in the government administration building in which the Evidentiary Hearing would be held at 9:00 a.m. on May 2, 2018.
- At 4:35 a.m. on May 2, 2018, the morning of the Evidentiary Hearing, the Hearing Officer, counsel for Respondent, and Respondent’s Appraisal Manager, Robert Koch, received the following email message from the email address of Complainant’s counsel:
I failed to properly calendar this hearing and will be unable got (sic) attend. Pleeaasse (sic) continue this hearing.
- At approximately 9:15 a.m., on May 2, 2018, the Evidentiary Hearing was commenced. Neither Complainant nor counsel for Complainant appeared. Respondent appeared by counsel, who announced ready for trial. Respondent’s witness also appeared. Following a grace period for Complainant and/or counsel for Complainant to appear, the matter was placed on the record for the entry of decision noting Complainant’s and/or Complainant’s counsel’s failure to appear and to prosecute the appeal and affirming the decision of the BOE.
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 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.
Presumptions In Appeals
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). In order to prevail, a complainant must rebut the presumption of correct assessment by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence as to the proper taxation of the subject property on the tax day at issue. Hermel, 564 S.W.2d at 895; Cupples-Hesse Corporation v. State Tax Commission, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959). There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. In an appeal before the Commission, the taxpayer still bears the burden of proof because the taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief. Therefore, a complainant must prove by a preponderance of substantial and persuasive the evidence 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, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375, 379 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 648 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. W.D. 1991).
Complainant and/or counsel for Complainant failed to appear and to prosecute the appeal and failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption that the BOE’s determination of the TVM of the subject property was correct. Although the email sent by counsel for Complainant requested a continuance, the request for continuance was not filed at least five business days prior to the date of the Evidentiary Hearing. 12 CSR 30-3.050(6). Furthermore, the request stated the reason for requesting a continuance was due to a failure to properly calendar the Evidentiary Hearing, not for good cause shown as defined by 12 CSR 30-3.050(6).
The BOE’s determination that the TVM of the subject property was $135,000 ($25,650 assessed value) as of January 1, 2017, is AFFIRMED.
Application for Review
Complainant 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. The application shall contain specific 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 appeal is based may result in summary denial. Section 138.432 RSMo 2000.
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 a 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 2000, as amended.
Any Finding of Fact that is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed. Any Decision that is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.
SO ORDERED June 14, 2018.
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 14th day of June, 2018, to: Complainants(s) counsel and/or Complainants, the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.