William David Long v. Frink (Howard)

January 4th, 2002




Complainant, )


v. ) Appeal Number 01-61001





Respondent. )



Decision of the Howard County Board of Equalization sustaining the assessment made by the Assessor, AFFIRMED, true value in money for the subject properties for tax years 2001 and 2002 set as follows:

Parcel No.   Residential Value   Agricultural Value   Total Assessed
71121   $13,100   $20,200   $ 4,900
8374   $0   $54,800   $ 6,580
8363   $36,400   $59,000   $14,000
Totals:   $49,500   $134,000   $25,480


Complainant appeared pro se.

Respondent appeared pro se.

Case heard and decided by Chief Hearing Officer, W. B. Tichenor.


The Commission takes this appeal to determine whether certain portions of the subject farms should be placed in agricultural grade 8 and assessed accordingly on January 1, 2001.


Complainant appeals the decision of the Howard County Board of Equalization which sustained the valuation of the subject property. The Assessor determined that a total of 132 acres on Complainant’s farm should be placed in agricultural grade 7 instead of grade 8. Complainant challenged the regrading of this acreage. A hearing was conducted on December 6, 2001, in the Howard County Courthouse, Fayette, Missouri.

The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.

Complainant’s Evidence

Complainant testified in his own behalf. The Complainant offered into evidence the following exhibits.

Exhibit A – Seventeen (17) photographs of portions of the subject lands, depicting the slope, ground cover, tree growth and rock out-cropping which is representative of the land in dispute.

Exhibit B – A copy of a portion of the Howard County Soil Map Sheet No. 8 with the disputed ground highlighted in yellow and a copy of a topography map with portions of the disputed ground highlighted in yellow.

Exhibits A and B were received into evidence.

Complainant testified as to the slope, ground cover, quality of trees, extent of rock out-cropping and depth of soil on the disputed land. It was Complainant’s position that Norris Rock soil with the slope which predominately exists on the disputed tracts should be valued as agricultural grade 8 land, as had previously been done prior to tax year 2001.

Respondent’s Evidence

Respondent testified in his own behalf and offered into evidence his valuation report (Exhibit 1). Respondent testified that following a ratio study in 2000 by the Ratio Study Section of the State Tax Commission that he had placed Norris Rock soil in grade 7, where prior to the ratio study it had been in grade 8.


1. Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper. Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the Howard County Board of Equalization.

2. Complainant did not contest the residential land and improvement values as determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board. Complainant did not contest the agricultural grades placed on land in grades 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. Complainant only contested the acreage which was in agricultural grade 7. The tracts of land under appeal consist of the following agricultural grades and residential improvement and land values as shown by Exhibit 1:

A. Parcel No. 71121.

Residential land and improvement value: $13,100

Agricultural land value not disputed:         $18,925

Agricultural land disputed: 17 acres         $ 1,275

B. Parcel No. 8374.

Agricultural land value not disputed:         $51,425

Agricultural land disputed: 45 acres         $ 3,375

C. Parcel No. 8363.

Residential land and improvement value: $36,400

Agricultural land value not disputed:         $53,750

Agricultural land disputed: 70 acres         $ 5,250

3. The total assessed value of the disputed acres, as determined by the assessor, is $1,190 ($1,275 + $3,375 + $5,250 = $9,900 x .12 = $1,188, rounded to $1,190). The total assessed value of the disputed acres, as proposed by Complainant, if they were to be valued as grade 8 land at $30 per acre instead of $75 per acre, would be $475 (132 acres x $30 = $3,960 x .12 = $475). This calculates to a difference in assessed value between the Assessor’s determination and Complainant’s position of $715, or approximately less than $40.00 in taxes, based upon 2000 tax rates for Howard County (2000 Tax Rates, Political Subdivisions, State of Missouri, Prepared by State Tax Commission of Missouri, p. 59).

4.    Official notice is taken of the Soil Survey of Howard County, Missouri, United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service, June, 1978.

5. Norris series soil consists of shallow, well drained, strongly sloping to steep soils on uplands. It is underlain by silty clay loam lenses that are interbedded with thin layers of shale. For the most part these soil are used for pasture or are wooded. They have low natural fertility and are not suited to cultivate crops or hay. These soils produce a think, poor stand or low quality timber. Soil Survey of Howard County, Missouri, p. 41.

Norris-Rock land complex of 10 to 30 percent slopes are on narrow ridgetops and steep side slopes of riber bluffs and ridges in the uplands. Norris soils make up about 70 percent of this complex and Rock land makes up about 30 percent. The Rock land areas in this complex range from small spots of exposed raw shale bedrock that is littered with many shale fragments and thin slablike pieces of interbedded limestone to larger areas of shale bedrock covered with a think shaly silt loam mantel less than 10 inches think. A few areas have exposures or outcroppings of the ledgelike interbedded limestone or the thick underlying limestone bedrock formations. Runoff is rapid and the hazard of erosion is severe. Areas of this complex are poorly suited to most farm uses because of their shallow depth to bedrock and their steepness of slope. This complex is not suited to crops and is very limited in its use for pasture. It is better suited to woodland and as habitat for wildlife. Suitability as habitat for open land and woodland wildlife is poor. Norris-Rock land complex is in capability unit VIIe-8. Soil Survey of Howard County, Missouri, pp.41 & 42.

Capability unit VIIe-8 is described as: shallow, strongly sloping, well drained soils with moderate permeability, very low available water capacity and underlying soft shale bedrock; on uplands. Capability Unit VII is described as: soil have very severe limitations that make them unsuited to cultivation and restrict their use largely to range, woodland, or wildlife food and cover. Solis very severly limited by the risk of further erosion or damage caused by past erosion and by steepness of slopes. Soil Survey of Howard County, Missouri, p. 51.

6. The parties are in agreement that the disputed 132 acres consists of Norris-Rock land.

7. Complainant’s evidence was not persuasive to establish the disputed 132 acres should be or can be placed in agricultural grade 8 for purposes of valuation and assessment.

8. The 132 acres of disputed land do not fall within the definition for agricultural grade 8 land. The 132 acres of disputed land fall within the definition for agricultural grade 7 land and were properly valued and assessed by Respondent at $75 per acre.



The Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious. Article X, section 14, Mo. Const. of 1945; Sections 138.430, 138.431, RSMo. 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 138.431.4, RSMo.

Agricultural Land Grade 7

Agricultural Land Grade 7 consist of soils that are generally unsuited for cultivation and may have other severe limitations for grazing and forestry that cannot be corrected. Limitations:

1. Very steep slopes (over fifteen percent (15%);

2. Severe erosion potential;

3. Grades #5 and #6 bottomland subject to frequent damaging flooding (more than once in two (2) years);

4. Intensive management required to achieve grass or timber productions; and

5. Very shallow topsoil. Use value: seventy-five dollars ($75).

12 CSR 30-4.010(1)(G).

Agricultural Land Grade 8

Agricultural Land Grade 8 consists of land capable of only limited production of plant growth. It may be extremely dry, rought, steep, stony, sandy, wet or severely eroded. Includes rivers, running branches, dry creek and swamp areas. The lands do not provide areas of benefit for wildlife or recreational purposes. Use value: thirty dollars ($30). 12 CSR 30-4.010(1)(H).

Forest Land

Forest land is land whose cover is predominantly trees and other woody vegetation. Forest land of two (2) or more acres in area, which if cleared and used for agricultural crops, would fall into land grades #1 – #5 should be placed in land grade #6; or if land would fall into land grades #6 or #7 should be placed in land grade # 7. 12 CSR 30-4.010(2)(A).


Complainant seeks to have the Commission, in effect, repeal and reenact Commission Rule 12 CSR 30-4.010 and define agricultural land grade 8 in such a manner as to encompass Norris-Rock complex soil within the definition for grade 8 land. Neither the Hearing Officer, nor the Commission, has the authority to ignore the duly promulgated rule which establishes the soil types which are classified in grades 1 through 7 and the land type which is to be placed in grade 8. The Respondent’s action in placing the disputed land in grade 7 was not as a result of some change in land grading and classification. Norris-Rock soil has always fit within grade 7 soil, although in given instances in various counties, it may have inadvertently been graded as grade 8 land in past assessment cycles.

Grade 7 Soil Characteristics

The subject acreage is Norris-Rock complex soil. It is generally unsuited for cultivation and has other severe limitations for grazing and forestry. The acreage is, on the whole, on a very steep slope generally running in excess of fifteen (15%) percent. The land is burdened by severe erosion potential, especially if the existing tree and foliage cover were to to be removed. The land has very shallow topsoil and would require intensive management to grow grass or to improve timber production beyond very poor cordwood harvesting. All of these factors are characteristics of grade 7 land.

Grade 8 Land Characteristics

The disputed acreage is capable of more than limited production of plant growth. Complainant’s photographs establish that the land sustains a generally thick stand of small and most likely poor quality trees. However, it is evident that the land is able to sustain adequate plant growth in the form of trees. Complainant’s position is that the land is rough, steep and stony. It is accessable generally only by foot or with a four-wheel all terrain vehicle. Certainly the land is steep and contains stone out-croppings. These factors can also exist within land which is grade 7 land.

The land is not generally what can be considered as a river, running branch, dry creek and swamp areas. There are apparently some portions of the acreage that consist of running branches or creeks (two photographs depicted a small branch or drainage ditch with standing water), the total amount of land that would come within such a catagory is unknown and would certainly be only a minor portion of the land, most likely comprising no more than a few acres in total area. All of these conditions and factors weigh against placing the land in grade 8.

Forest Land

Another factor must also be considered. This relates to the Commission defintion of forest land. This definition supports the inclusion of the disputed land in grade 7. The subject land, if cleared, would be a grade 7 soil type. The definition of forest land requires that underlying land which is grade 6 or 7 must be place in land grade 7. There is no authority to place such forest land in grade 8. The subject land is predominantly tree covered land of more than 2 acres. It clearly fits, under the rule, in grade 7 on this basis.


In dealing with acreage which fits the description of grade 7, the focus is on soil types and their limitations. However, when considering whether portions of farm land should be placed in grade 8, the focus is not on soil types, but rather the general capability of the land for production of plant growth, irrespective of any given soil type. The Commission rule, read in conjunction with the soil surveys for the various counties, does not place any specific soil type in grade 8.

If the tract of land is generally capable of only limited plant growth, such as abandoned rock quarries, gravel pits, steep river and creek bluffs consisting of rock faces, overhangs and ourcroppings, dry and rocky creek beds, swampy areas which would produce only water plants, then such tracts of land will normally be considered as grade 8 land. On the other hand, tracts of land of a soil type that will produce plant growth, such as stands of timber, irrespective of whether the timber is of outstanding or even average quality for harvesting beyond cord wood, will not usually qualify as grade 8 land, but rather must be placed in grade 7.

Complainant’s evidence failed to demonstrate that the disputed acreage fulfull the requirements to be graded as grade 8 land. The evidence did, in fact, show that the subject land satisfied the characteristics which required it be considered as grade 7 acreage. Accordingly, the grading of the 132 acres in question made by the Respondent is affirmed.


The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization for Howard County for the subject tax day is AFFIRMED.

The assessed value for the subject property identified by Parcel No. 71121 is $4,900.

The assessed value for the subject property identified by Parcel No. 8374 is $6,580.

The assessed value for the subject property identified by Parcel No. 8363 is $14,000.

A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within thirty (30) days of the mailing of such decision. The application shall contain specific grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous. Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the appeal is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432, RSMo 1994.

If an application for review of this decision is made to the Commission, any protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accordance with this appeal shall be held pending the final decision of the Commission. If no application for review is received by the Commission within thirty (30) days, this decision and order is deemed final and the Collector of Howard County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall disburse the protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accord with the decision on the underlying assessment in this appeal. If any or all protested taxes have been disbursed pursuant to Section 139.031(8), RSMo, either party may apply to the circuit court having jurisdiction of the cause for disposition of the protested taxes held by the taxing authority.

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 January 4, 2002.


W. B. Tichenor

Chief Hearing Officer