STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-11176|
|v.||)||Parcel No. 31J540185|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Roger Welker (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, 2019, was $194,800, with an assessed value of $37,010. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $161,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was held on July 22, 2020, at the Wainwright State Office Building in the City of St. Louis, Missouri. Complainant appeared pro se and attended in person. Respondent was represented by counsel Monique McNutt, who attended by WebEx video conference.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 5250 Milburn Road in St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 31J540185.
The subject property consists of a .28 acre lot and 1,520 square foot single family home. The home has three bedrooms, one and one-half bathrooms, and a full basement. Complainant received the lot in 1970, and the home was built in 1971.
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $194,800. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $194,800.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant testified that he believes the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $161,000, the previous appraised value, and that a 50-foot easement for a 22-inch high pressure natural gas transmission line negatively impacts the value of the subject property. Complainant submitted (1) Exhibit A, a May 1, 2007, newspaper article titled “Pipeline blast’s cause still unknown” from The State Journal Register, a Springfield, Illinois newspaper; (2) Exhibit B, an undated newspaper article titled “ Pipeline explodes, Pawnee farmer worried about injuries to livestock” from The State Journal Register; (3) Exhibit C, a plat from the Guaranty Land Title Company that shows the Mississippi River Transmission Corporation easement; (4) Exhibit D, a copy of one page addressing underground pipelines from an emergency information book; and (5) Exhibit E, an Enable Mississippi River Transmission, LLC map dated as generated on March 16, 2020, that includes pipeline information.
Respondent’s attorney made relevance objections to Exhibits A and B, and made an objection that no expert was offered to testify as to Exhibit E. Those objections were overruled with an indication that they would be taken into account when determining the weight of the evidence. Exhibits C and D were received into evidence without objection.
Complainant testified that although Exhibits A and B discuss a different pipeline, they illustrate the tremendous damage that can occur when a natural gas transmission line ruptures. Complainant further testified that Exhibit C shows the location of the Mississippi River Transmission Corporation pipeline easement relative to the subject property and the neighboring property that he owns; Exhibit D illustrates how a normal pipeline easement looks today in contrast to the Mississippi River Transmission Corporation pipeline, which he believes was placed in 1929; and Exhibit E explains information about the Mississippi River Transmission Corporation pipeline location and specifications.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted (1) Exhibit 1, the BOE’s October 4, 2019, Findings and Notice of Decision, determining a $194,800 appraised value; (2) Exhibit 2, a computer generated Comparable Sales Analysis Report for Tax Year 2019; and (3) Exhibit 3, the property record card for the subject property. Complainant’s objections were overruled, and Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 were received into evidence.
Sharon Kuelker, who has been employed by Respondent as a residential appraiser senior since 2007 and as a residential appraiser since 2002, testified in support of the BOE’s value of $194,800. Ms. Kuelker indicated that she agreed with the market value of $194,800 based on the computer generated comparable sales found in Exhibit 2; she did not have a comparable property with a gas line on it that sold; and the subject property had not been for sale.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $194,800, with an assessed value of $37,010.
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). “True value in money is the fair market value of the property on the valuation date, and is a function of its highest and best use, which is the use of the property which will produce the greatest return in the reasonably near future.” 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). Determining the TVM is a factual issue for the STC. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008). The “proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission.” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 75 (Mo. banc 1986).
“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; see also St. Louis Cty. v. Sec. Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977).
The comparable sales approach “is most appropriate when there is an active market for the type of property at issue such that sufficient data are available to make a comparative analysis.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348. For this reason, the comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential property. “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 347-48 (internal quotation omitted). “Comparable sales consist of evidence of sales reasonably related in time and distance and involve land comparable in character.” Id. at 348.
- 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). The finder of fact in an administrative hearing determines the credibility and weight of expert testimony. Hornbeck v. Spectra Painting, Inc., 370 S.W.3d 624, 632 (Mo. banc 2012). “It is within the purview of the hearing officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 9 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). 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.
- 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 or misclassified. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous” and 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, 722 S.W.2d at 77 (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 Prove Overvaluation. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing that the BOE’s valuation was erroneous and that his opinion of value, $161,000, was the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019. Although Complainant addressed the dangerousness of gas pipelines in his testimony and Exhibits A, B, and D and the easement and characteristics of the specific natural gas pipeline that he alleges impacted the TVM of the subject property in his testimony and Exhibits C and E, Complainant did not produce evidence of any monetary impact that the pipeline had on the TVM of the subject property. Complainant testified that the subject home is in “excellent shape” and comparable to Respondent’s comparables except for the fact that the comparable properties do not have an easement for a natural gas pipeline. However, Complainant did not provide any alternative comparable sales to utilize in the comparable sales approach. Further, to the extent that Complainant contended that such easement is a difference between the subject property and comparable properties that required an adjustment when utilizing the comparable sales approach to determine the TVM of the subject property, neither the necessity for nor the amount of such an adjustment has been persuasively established.
Respondent, although not required to, presented persuasive evidence in support of the BOE’s valuation. Ms. Kuelker, a residential appraiser, testified that she agreed with the computer-generated comparables found in Exhibit 2 and that her opinion of value was $194,800, the same value for the subject property listed on Exhibit 2 and determined by the BOE.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $194,800 with an assessed value of $37,010.
Application for Review
A party may file with the Commission 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, 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, 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.
SO ORDERED June 4, 2021.
Laura A. Storck-Elam
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 June 4, 2021, 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, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.