Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Hon. Joseph L.
T. QUIGLESS, P.J.
an appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court of St. Louis
County, which, on review, affirmed decisions of the State Tax
Commission ("STC") and the St. Louis County Board
of Equalization ("BOE"). The case involves
allegations that the STC failed to properly equalize real
property valuations among counties resulting in
discriminatory tax assessments for several tracts of land
located in St. Louis County as compared to similarly-situated
properties located in other counties but within the same
multi-county taxing jurisdictions.
Appellants, Armstrong-Trotwood, LLC, Armstrong-Brittany, LLC,
Armstrong-Arbor Village, LLC, Robert S. Rothschild, Susan H.
Rothschild, Geiger Real Estate, Inc., Josh & Elaine, LLC
(collectively "Landowners"), appeal from the
circuit court's judgment dismissing all five counts of
their petition, seeking: judicial review of a contested case
before the STC, which dismissed the Landowners' property
tax appeals for lack of jurisdiction (Count I); judicial
review of a non-contested case before the STC, which
dismissed the Landowners' challenge to the inter-county
equalization for lack of jurisdiction (Count IV); and a
declaratory judgment that the STC failed to properly conduct
inter-county equalization of property valuations (Count II).
this Court lacks jurisdiction over this case because the
issues involve the "construction of the revenue laws of
the state, " which is within the exclusive jurisdiction
of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Article V,
§ 3 of the Missouri Constitution. We therefore transfer
this case to the Supreme Court under Article V, § 11.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
this is an appeal from the grant of Respondents' motions
to dismiss for failure to state a claim, we accept as true
all well-pled allegations in Landowners' petition and
liberally grant it all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom.
Mo. Am. Water Co. v. Collector of St. Charles Cnty.,
103 S.W.3d 266, 268 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003).
own properties located entirely in St. Louis County. Their
land also falls within several multi-county taxing
jurisdictions that include parts of Jefferson County and
Franklin County. They allege that the assessors in Jefferson
and Franklin counties were systematically undervaluing
properties in those counties, including properties within
their multi-county taxing jurisdictions.
each timely filed an appeal of their 2011-2012 property tax
assessment with the St. Louis County Board of Equalization
("BOE") alleging that their assessments were
discriminatory and raising issues of inter-county
equalization. They argued that, although the valuations of
their properties were accurate, their assessments were
nonetheless discriminatory because the assessments and
property valuations were not equalized among all the
properties within the territorial limits of the multi-county
taxing jurisdictions in which their properties are located.
These multi-county taxing jurisdictions included the St.
Louis Community College District, Special School District of
St. Louis County, Rockwood School District, and the Eureka
Fire Protection District. The Landowners provided appraisal
ratio studies showing that "St. Louis County has a
substantially higher appraisal ratio placed on the property
on its tax roll than do the jurisdictions in Jefferson County
and St. Louis City." Landowners argued that their
admittedly correct assessments were discriminatory because
"this property and others in St. Louis County are forced
to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of operating the
above enumerated taxing jurisdictions, while owners of
undervalued property in Jefferson County and St. Louis City
are paying less than their fair and lawful obligation."
September and December of 2011, the BOE sustained the
Landowners' assessments. In June of 2012, Landowners
timely appealed their cases to the STC. The cases were
consolidated in June of 2012, but a hearing officer was not
assigned to the case until almost two years later. In July of
2014, the hearing officer dismissed the appeals sua
sponte, on the grounds that the STC lacked jurisdiction.
The hearing officer reasoned the STC's jurisdiction is
derivative of the BOE's jurisdiction. Thus, since the
local BOE has no authority over issues of inter-county
equalization, the STC also lacks authority to address issues
of inter-county equalization in an appeal from the decision
of a local BOE. In August of 2014, Landowners filed an
Application for Review of the hearing officer's decision,
which was affirmed by the STC in December of 2014.
their orders dismissing the Landowners' petitions, both
the hearing officer and the STC cited the uniformity clause
of the Missouri Constitution, which states that:
Taxes may be levied and collected for public purposes only,
and shall be uniform upon the same class or subclass of
subjects within the territorial limits of the authority
levying the tax.
Mo. Const. art. X, § 3 (emphasis added). The STC
interpreted this clause to mean that "the authority
levying the tax" was the "governing body of the
county, " and that the "territorial limits" is
therefore the boundaries of the county itself. The STC then
concluded, in the context of a multi-county taxing
jurisdiction, the uniformity clause only requires
equalization of assessment within the limits of each county
and not within the entire tax district spanning multiple
January of 2015, the Landowners filed a petition in the
Circuit Court of St. Louis County naming both the BOE and the
STC as respondents, alleging five counts: judicial review of
a contested case, alleging that the BOE and the STC both
erred in dismissing their appraisal appeals (Count I);
declaratory judgment, asking the court to declare that the
Landowners' assessments are discriminatory and that the
STC failed to perform timely and accurate inter-county
equalization (Count II); mandamus, asking the court to order
the STC to perform inter-county equalization and reduce
Landowners' assessments to make them uniform with other
properties in the multi-county taxing jurisdictions (Count
III); judicial review of a non-contested case, alleging that
the STC failed ...