STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|RICHARD DEWEY ZUROWESTE,||)|
|)||Appeal Nos. 21-15896 & 21-16692|
|)||Parcel Nos. 24O410304 & 26T430091|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Richard Dewey Zuroweste (Complainant) appealed assessments made by the Board of Equalization of St. Louis County (BOE) on the two parcels cited above on the ground of overvaluation. The assessments made by the BOE are AFFIRMED. Complainant failed to present substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the BOE as to each of the subject properties.
The evidentiary hearing for both of these appeals was held on May 31, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The appeals were heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin C. Slawson. For efficiency, the appeals have been consolidated in this Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Identification and Description of Subject Properties. The two subject properties are two parcels of vacant land in St. Louis County. The properties are further identified and described as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Address||Description|
|21-15896||24O410304||2833 Ozark Dr.||1 acre partially wooded lot in unincorporated St. Louis County with no improvements as of January 1, 2021; a house previously existed on the property which was demolished in January of 2020|
|21-16692||26T430091||1409 Palisades Rd.||3.38 acre unimproved wooded lot in Wildwood, Missouri|
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent and the BOE determined that each respective subject property’s value as of January 1, 2021 as set forth in the table, below:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Respondent’s Valuation||BOE Valuation|
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant opined that the TVM of each of the subject properties as of January 1, 2021 is as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Complainant’s Opinion of TVM|
Complainant submitted the following exhibits for these appeals which were admitted without objection:
|21-15896||A||Summary of Complainant’s argument for overvaluation and calculation of proposed value|
|21-15896||B||2022 Assessment information for Parcel No. 24O410304|
|21-15896||C||Federal Reserve Economic Data for St. Louis County for 2019-2021|
|21-16692||A||Summary of Complainant’s argument for overvaluation and calculation of proposed value; proposed comparable sales|
|21-16692||B||Information for comparable 16515 Meadow Hawk Dr.|
|21-16692||C||Information for comparable 3324 Pine Cliff Rd.|
|21-16692||D||Information for comparable 1361 Bear Canyon|
|21-16692||E||Collateral Analytics Valuation Estimate from realtor.com for 1409 Palisades Rd.|
Complainant testified that 2833 Ozark Dr. is a unique property for which good comparable sales do not exist. Complainant asserted that Respondent agrees with this conclusion. Exhibit A shows that on Respondent’s Assessment page for the subject property, it indicates that the subject property is unique. It also states that and that if good comparable sales do not exist other recognized methods and techniques are used to estimate the fair market value for ad valorem tax purposes.
Because no comparable sales exist, Complainant used the following methodology to come up with his proposed value for the subject. Complainant took Respondent’s appraised land value for the property in 2019 ($80,800) and multiplied it by the average increase of property value in the St. Louis County region using Federal House Price Index (HPI) data in Exhibit C (12%). Multiplying $80,800 by 1.12 results in Complainant’s proposed value of $90,496.
For 1409 Palisades Rd., Complainant testified that the Change of Assessment Notice dated May 12, 2021, he received from Respondent stated that Respondent’s indicated value of the property, $111,100, was determined using generally accepted appraisal techniques as specified by Section 137.115, RSMo. However, Complainant asserted that Respondent did not list any comparable sales on this notice. Complainant found three comparable sales of vacant land near the subject which are detailed in Exhibits A through D for Appeal No. 21-16692. Using the sales price and number of acres, Complainant determined a price per acre for each comparable and then averaged them, arriving at an average price per acre of $16,938. Complainant then took this number and multiplied it by the number of acres for the subject property, 3.38, to reach be $57,250 as the TVM for the subject as of January 1, 2021. Complainant also noted that Exhibit E, a printout from realtor.com, contains an estimate for the property as $53,000.
Complainant testified that he is not a licensed appraiser in the state of Missouri, nor has he had any educational or professional training or experience in making market-based adjustments to comparable sale properties to determine the TVM of a subject property.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1 for both respective appeals, consisting of the October 29, 2021, BOE decision letter for each respective subject property. Exhibit 1 for each respective appeal was admitted without objection.
- Value. The TVM of each respective subject property as of January 1, 2021, are as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||TVM|
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 for either of these appeals. Complainant did not produce evidence supporting a comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to value, nor did he offer an appraisal of any of the subject properties as evidence of the TVM of the property as of January 1, 2021.
For 2833 Ozark Dr., Complainant took Respondent’s appraised land value for the property in 2019 ($80,800) and multiplied it by the average increase of property value in the St. Louis County region using Federal HPI data in Exhibit C (12%). Multiplying $80,800 by 1.12 results in Complainant’s proposed value of $90,496. However, using the HPI increase percentage and then multiplying it against prior appraised value in the previous assessment cycle is not an approach to value that is used in Missouri to determine the TVM of a subject property.
For 1409 Palisades Rd., while Complainant did offer comparable sale data for consideration, Complainant’s method of averaging comparable sale amounts and on a price per acre basis to determine value is not an approach to value that is used in Missouri to determine the TVM of a subject property. Further, Complainant’s comparable sales were not analyzed using accepted appraisal methods, for example making appropriate market adjustments to determine value of the subject. For example, while Complainant testified that these parcels of land were similar to the subject in topography, Complainant had no information regarding the conditions of the sales and whether they were sales on the open market. The conditions of a sale may require a market adjustment to a sales price to compare it accurately with a subject property. Similarly, Complainant presented no evidence regarding and liens on these properties or the specific characteristics of these lots themselves, such as soil quality and grade. Therefore, a sales comparison approach could not be performed based on the submitted evidence. Complainant did not alternatively offer testimony of an appraiser, nor an appraisal of the property as evidence of the TVM of the property as of January 1, 2021.
The lack of evidence relating to a recognized valuation method renders Complainant’s proposed values for each of the subject properties 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 properties and “the value that should have been placed on [these properties].” Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation in either of these appeals. The BOE decisions are affirmed. The TVM and assessed values of each respective subject property as of January 1, 2021 are as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||TVM||Assessed Valuation|
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 November 4, 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 November 4, 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 for each of these respective appeals. 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.