STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|PHILLIP W. ROEMMICH,||)|
|v.||)||Appeal No. 21-10132|
|)||Parcel No. 16O420852|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Phillip W. Roemmich (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $407,900. Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserts the TVM was $290,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $407,900.
The evidentiary hearing was held on April 28, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential real property is located at 1455 Ross Ave, Saint Louis, Missouri. The subject property consists of a single family home on a half-acre lot which Complainant built in 2006. The cost of construction for the home at that time was $273,000. The house has four bedrooms, with three upstairs and the master bedroom downstairs on the main level. It has around 2,500 square feet of living area. The house has vinyl siding on three sides of the exterior and brick on one side. Complainant has not made any significant improvements to the property.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $407,900. The BOE also determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $407,900.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant did not offer any exhibits.
Complainant testified that he believes that the TVM of the property as of January 1, 2021 was $290,000. Complainant stated this was the appraised value Respondent assigned to the property in the 2019 assessment cycle, and Complainant does not believe it should be increased. Complainant asserted that the property has been overvalued by Respondent and the BOE because his property is being compared to houses that have all brick exteriors and have been recently renovated or updated. Complainant testified that he has not made any significant improvements to his property, and that he could build his house again in the current market for a cost of $290,000. Complainant noted that he has a broken water heater and a non-functional stove. In addition, Complainant stated that he believes his property has been also devalued by changing environmental conditions, specifically the rise of the Creve Coeur Creek near his property which has caused flooding issues.
Complainant testified that he is not appraiser, nor does he possess appraisal training and experience in order to make value comparisons and market-based adjustments between sales of comparable properties.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, the BOE’s October 29, 2021, Decision Letter. Complainant did not have a legal objection to Respondent’s Exhibit 1, and it was admitted into evidence.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $407,900.
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. Section 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). “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).
“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. The three generally accepted approaches are the cost approach, the income approach, and the comparable sales approach. Id. at 346-48. The STC has wide discretion in selecting the appropriate valuation method but “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered under a particular valuation approach.” Id., at 348.
- Evidence. “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). 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).
- 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). 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”).
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
The comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential properties improved with a single-family home. “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).
Complainant offered no evidence of comparable sales or any evidence proving his opinion value of $290,000. Concerning the environmental changes to the surrounding area of the subject property and the condition issues discussed by Complainant during his testimony, Complainant provided no evidence providing a way to quantify the effect of these issues on value or showing the BOE value did not account for these issues. Complainant noted that he has a broken water heater and a non-functional stove, but did provide any estimates on the cost to repair or replace these appliances.
While a property owner’s opinion of value is generally admissible, the opinion lacks “probative value where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.” Shelby Cty. R-IV Sch. Dist. v. Herman, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Mo. 1965); see also Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 349 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (noting a property owner’s opinion of value loses probative value when it rests on an improper foundation).
Complainant did not offer any exhibits. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing that the BOE’s value was incorrect. Further, Complainant’s testimony does not provide the necessary foundation and elements to support his overvaluation claim. Complainant admitted he is neither a certified appraiser, nor does he have experience in appraising properties to determine the TVM of a subject property. Because the STC “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered” under a recognized approach to value, Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348, the BOE decision is affirmed.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE’s decision finding the TVM of subject property on January 1, 2021, was $407,900 is affirmed.
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 August 26, 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 August 26, 2022.
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.