STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
RUSSELL RONIMOUS, )
Complainant, ) Appeal No. 19-72000
) Parcel Locator No. 15-6.0-24-000-000-006.000
ANEGLIA BAKER, ASSSESSOR, )
MONROE COUNTY, MISSOURI )
DECISION AND ORDER
Russell Ronimous (Complainant) appeals the Monroe County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the fair market value of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $79,300, with an assessed value of $13,810. Complainant claims the property was overvalued and the assessment was discriminatory.
The hearing officer conducted an evidentiary hearing. Complainant did not present substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation or discrimination. The BOE’s decision is AFFIRMED.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property
- The subject property is located at 17468 Monroe Road 717, Paris, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 15-6.0-24-000-000-006.000.
- The subject property consists of an approximately 80 acre lot and a house. Approximately 78 acres of the 80 acre lot are classified as agricultural. In 2014, Complainant purchased the subject property for $191,000.
- The house was constructed in 1995, and is built on a concrete slab. The house has approximately 2,064 square feet and is not fully finished. Prior to January 1, 2019, Complainant added drywall, a new metal roof, and central air conditioning. These improvements were not included in Respondent’s appraisal of the residential property in prior assessment cycles.
- Respondent initially determined fair market value of the residential property was $64,600 and the value of the agricultural land was $18,000, yielding a total value of $82,600. Respondent assessed the residential property at the 19% statutory rate, yielding an assessed value of $12,280 for the residential property.
- Respondent reduced the appraised value of the residential property from $64,600 to $61,300 after adjusting the construction level to “below average.” Respondent reduced the value of the subject property from $82,600 to $79,300.
- The BOE Decision
- The BOE sustained Respondent’s valuation and set the “total market value” of the subject property at $79,300 “due to no appraisal paperwork and on documentation of any kind[.]”
- Complainant’s Appeal
- Complainant timely appealed the BOE decision to the State Tax Commission (Commission).
- Complainant alleged the subject property was overvalued and subjected to a discriminatory assessment.
- Overvaluation Claim
- At the evidentiary hearing, Complainant elected to not challenge the value of the agricultural land. Complainant proceeded with his overvaluation claim alleging Respondent overvalued the residential property.
- Complainant asserted the fair market value of the residential property is $35,000.
- Complainant submitted no exhibits to support his opinion of value. Complainant based his opinion of value on statements from unnamed realtors who told Complainant the residential property was worth between $25,000 and $36,000.
- Respondent submitted Exhibits 1-14. All of Respondent’s exhibits were admitted into evidence. The exhibits consisted of the original and amended notices of a change in assessed value, a worksheet showing property improvements and adjusting the construction quality from high to low, a table of per square foot construction costs for high and low quality construction, a structure drawing showing the dimensions and calculating square footage, three reports showing the size, specifications, and estimated value of the residence, two property record cards for the subject property, photos and descriptions of two comparable sales, a depreciation table, and a file letter from Respondent detailing her decision to reduce the value of the residence and the total appraised value of the subject property.
- Discrimination Claim
- Complainant presented no evidence of an intentional plan by Respondent to assess the subject property at a greater percentage of value than other residential properties in Monroe County. Complainant presented no evidence of the overall assessment ratio of residential property in Monroe County.
- The fair market value of the subject property as of January 1, 2019 is $79,300. The assessed value is $13,810.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The Commission has authority, “under such rules as may be prescribed by law, to hear appeals from local boards in individual cases and, upon such appeal, to correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious.” Mo. Const. art. X, § 14. Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000, authorizes the Commission to hear appeals concerning assessment, valuation, the method or formula used in determining valuation, or the assignment of a discriminatory assessment. “The commission shall investigate all such appeals and shall correct any assessment or valuation which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Id. “To hear and decide appeals pursuant to section 138.430, the commission shall appoint one or more hearing officers.” Section 138.431.1. The 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.” Section 138.431.5.
- True Value in Money
All real property and tangible personal property must be assessed at its value or a percentage of its value as fixed by law for each class and for each subclass. Mo. Const. art. X, sec. 4(a), 4(b). Section 137.115.5(1)(a) provides residential property is assessed at 19% of its true value in money. The true value in money “is an estimate of the fair market value on the valuation date.” Hermel, Inc. v. State Tax Comm’n, 564 S.W.2d 888, 897 (Mo. banc 1978). 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 true value in money is a factual issue. Parker v. Doe Run Co., 553 S.W.3d 356, 360 (Mo. App. 2018).
- Evidentiary Standards
The hearing officer is the trier of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence. Citizens for Rural Pres., Inc. v. Robinett, 648 S.W.2d 117, 132 (Mo. App. 1982); see also Exch. Bank of Mo. v. Gerlt, 367 S.W.3d 132, 136 (Mo. App. 2012) (the trier of fact determines credibility and is free to disbelieve all or part of a party’s 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 to.” St. Louis Cty. v. State Tax Comm’n, 515 S.W.2d 446, 450 (Mo. 1974); see also Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. 2015) (the relative weight of any relevant factor is for the administrative hearing officer to decide). “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
A taxpayer challenging the assessment, valuation, the method or formula used in determining valuation, or the assignment of a discriminatory assessment bears the burden of proving the assessment or valuation was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.” Section 138.430.1; Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. 2003).
The BOE’s valuation is presumed correct, but the taxpayer may rebut this presumption with “substantial controverting evidence.” Hermel, Inc. v. State Tax Comm’n, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978) (quoting Cupples Hesse Corp. v. State Tax Comm’n, 329 S.W.2d 696, 702 (Mo. 1959)). Substantial evidence is evidence which “has probative force upon the issues . . . and from which the trier of fact can reasonably decide the case on the fact issues.” Cupples Hesse, 329 S.W.2d at 702 (internal quotation omitted).
If the taxpayer produces substantial evidence rebutting the BOE presumption, “the burden of proof on the facts and inferences would still rest on petitioner, for it is the moving party seeking affirmative relief.” Cupples Hesse, 329 S.W.2d at 702. To prevail, the taxpayer must produce “persuasive” evidence sufficient to convince the trier the disputed fact has been established. White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010); see also Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. 2002) (evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact”).
Complainant submitted no exhibits to support his opinion of value. Complainant’s opinion of value was based on hearsay testimony that unnamed realtors told him the residential property was worth between $25,000 and $36,000. Respondent did not object to this testimony. Section 536.070(8) provides “[a]ny evidence received without objection which has probative value shall be considered by the agency along with the other evidence in the case.” While hearsay evidence received without objection may be considered, such evidence ordinarily does not constitute substantial evidence in an administrative proceeding. Helfrich v. Labor & Indus. Relations Comm’n, Div. of Employment Sec., 756 S.W.2d 663, 666 (Mo. App. 1988).
The hearing officer concludes Complainant’s hearsay testimony is not substantial evidence rebutting the BOE presumption. Because Complainant did not produce substantial evidence rebutting the BOE presumption, Complainant cannot meet his burden of proving overvaluation. Complainant’s overvaluation claim is denied.
- Discriminatory Assessment
The United States and Missouri constitutions prohibit discriminatory taxation of similarly situated taxpayers. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Mo Const. art. X, § 3. “A taxpayer has the right to have his assessment reduced to the percentage of that value at which others are taxed. . . .” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n of Missouri, 722 S.W.2d 72, 79 (Mo. banc 1986) (internal quotation omitted). Absent proof of intentional discrimination, the analysis of discrimination claims compares the assessment level of similarly situated properties to the actual assessment level for the subject property. Id. at 78.
There was no evidence of an intentional plan of discrimination or of the average or median assessment level of similarly situated residential properties in Monroe County. Complainant’s discrimination claim is denied.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The true value in money of the subject property is $79,300. The assessed value is $13,810.
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, or emailed to email@example.com, and a copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.
Failure to state the specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.
The Collector of Monroe 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 October 16, 2019.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Eric S. Peterson
Senior Hearing Officer
 Complainant and the Monroe County Assessor (Respondent) appeared pro se.
 All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 In 1992, the General Assembly eliminated the statutory presumption in favor of the assessor’s valuation. Section 138.060.1 provides “[t]here shall be no presumption that the assessor’s valuation is correct.” The plain language of the statute negates the former presumption the assessor’s valuation is correct, but leaves intact the longstanding presumption the BOE’s valuation is correct. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 n.2 (Mo. App. 2008); see also Parker, 553 S.W.3d at 360.