STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|WILLIAM P. DONKERVOET,||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal Nos. 21-18229, 21-18231, 21-18232, and 21-182331|
|v.||)||Parcel Nos. 26R620744, 26R620494, 26R620212, 26R620461|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
William P. Donkervoet (Complainant) appealed assessments made by the Board of Equalization of St. Louis County (BOE) on each of the 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 these appeals was held on April 27, 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 subject residential properties are all located in the same general neighborhood. Three of the properties are adjacent to one another. Complainant purchased these properties around 2016, except for 42 Meramec Forest, which was purchased a year or two later. Complainant did not recall the exact purchase prices that he paid for these properties. The properties are further identified and described as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||Address||Description|
|21-18229||26R620744||5 Mombert Drive, Ballwin, MO 63021||Complainant estimated the lot is around 0.2 acres. Improvements include a small 1,100 square foot house on the side of the hill built in the 1920s. The house contains two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room.|
|21-18231||26R620494||3 Meramec Forest, Ballwin, MO 63021||Small bare lot with a few trees on it.|
|21-18232||26R620212||42 Meramec Forest, Ballwin, MO 63021||Small lot that has about 20 feet of level ground and then drops off at a steep angle. Complainant has a small moveable shed on the property.|
|21-18233||26R620461||6 Mombert Drive, Ballwin, MO 63021||Complainant estimated the lot is around 0.3 acres. Improvements include a small 1,000 square foot house. The house contains one bedroom and one bathroom.|
- 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|
To support his opinion of value for each subject property, Complainant introduced an Exhibit A for each respective appeal. All were admitted without objection. Each Exhibit A contains similar information, but each is tailored to each respective parcel. Each Exhibit A contains Complainant’s opinion of value for the particular subject property, arguments supporting claim of overvaluation, pictures of the subject property and surrounding area, and a list of comparison properties Complainant found with appraised values.
Complainant’s arguments for overvaluation for all four of these appeals were similar. For the two properties with improvements, 5 Mombert Drive and 6 Mombert Drive, Complainant asserted that the houses on those lots lack several amenities and access to certain utilities. Because of their location, Complainant testified that wells would be difficult to drill and water treatment would be expensive due to sulfur contamination. As a result, these two properties have cisterns, and water has to be transported to the houses. Complainant also discussed other issues which he believes devalue the market value of these properties, including the lack of a municipal sewer system and the fact that the entry road to access these lots is not paved and is not well maintained. Other undesirable issues include the owners of neighboring properties storing old vehicles, trash, and other personal property items on their lots near the subject properties, the fact that mailbox locations are inconvenient for homeowners in the neighborhood, and that there is a lack of sidewalks near the subject properties.
Complainant also asserted that the comparables used by Respondent in the assessment of the subject properties should not have been used as these are located in developed subdivisions with concrete paved streets and have public water and sewer systems. Complainant also pointed out that several of the comparables also had more bedrooms, bathrooms, or an attached garage. Complainant found additional properties around the subject properties and used the appraised land values of these to determine his proposed values for the subject properties.
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 each respective appeal, 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 and assessed values of each respective subject property as of January 1, 2021 are as follows:
|Appeal No.||Parcel No.||TVM||Assessed Valuation|
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 in each of these appeals. Complainant did not produce evidence supporting a comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to value.
Neither Complainant’s exhibits nor his testimony utilized the comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to support his proposed values for these properties. No comparable sales were cited or analyzed by Complainant, 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. Complainant found properties near the subjects and used Respondent’s appraised land value for those properties to project a proposed value for each of the subject properties. However, there is no evidence that these comparison properties were recent sales of properties. Even if they were, no market-based adjustments were made using approved appraisal methods to determine value of the subject property. In addition, specific characteristics of these comparison properties, and detailed characteristics of the subject properties themselves, were not provided. Therefore, a sales comparison approach could not be performed based on the submitted evidence.
Concerning the various condition issues with the subject properties that Complainant testified about and which are evidenced in Exhibit A for each appeal, Complainant provided no evidence providing a way to quantify the dollar amount effect of these issues on value.
The lack of evidence relating to a recognized valuation method renders Complainant’s proposed value 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 property and “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation in all 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.