ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
DAVID L. PIPPEN STEVE CARTER
ATTORNEY AT LAW ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis, IN
LINDA I. VILLEGAS
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
INDIANA TAX COURT
WESTON PAPER AND MFG. COMPANY, )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-9903-TA-15
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL )
ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF
THE STATE BOARD OF TAX COMMISSIONERS
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
SEPTEMBER 10, 2003
Weston Paper and Manufacturing Company (Weston) appeals the State Board of Tax Commissioners
(State Board) final determination valuing its real property for the 1995 tax year.
The issue is whether the State Board erred in grading Westons improvement
For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the State Boards
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Weston owns an improvement in Allen County, which it uses for light manufacturing,
warehousing, and office purposes associated with its business. For the 1995 assessment
year, the local assessing officials graded Westons improvement a C. Weston appealed
this assessment to the Allen County Board of Review (BOR) asserting that the
C grade was incorrect. The BOR, however, denied its claim. In
response, Weston appealed the BORs determination to the State Board arguing that the
improvements grade should be reduced from C to D. After a hearing
on June 16, 1998, the State Board issued a determination denying Westons request.
On March 3, 1999, Weston initiated an original tax appeal. The parties
stipulated to the record and, on March 9, 2001, this Court heard the
parties oral arguments. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.
ANALYSIS AND OPINION
Standard of Review
This Court gives great deference to the final determinations of the State Board
when it acts within the scope of its authority. Hamstra Builders, Inc.
v. Dept of Local Govt Fin., 783 N.E.2d 387, 390 (Ind. Tax. Ct.
2003). This Court will reverse a final determination of the State Board
only when its findings are unsupported by substantial evidence, arbitrary, capricious, constitute an
abuse of discretion, or exceed statutory authority. Id.
Furthermore, a taxpayer who appeals to this Court from a State Board final
determination bears the burden of showing that the final determination is invalid.
Id. To do so, the taxpayer must present a prima facie case
by submitting probative evidence concerning the alleged assessment error. Probative evidence is
evidence sufficient to establish a given fact that, if not contradicted, will remain
sufficient. Id.; See also Hoogenboom-Nofziger v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 715
N.E.2d 1018, 1023 (Ind. Tax. Ct. 1999) (stating that the State Boards duty
to support its final determination with substantial evidence is not triggered until the
taxpayer has offered probative evidence to establish its prima facie case).
In Indiana, an assessor uses his subjective judgment to assign a grade to
an improvement. See Mahan v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 622 N.E.2d
1058, 1064 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1993). The grading system allows the assessor
to recognize variations in an improvements materials, design, and workmanship. See Ind.
Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-10-3(a) (1996). An established grade is applied
as a multiplier to a previously determined base reproduction cost to arrive at
a True Tax Value for an improvement. Miller Structures, Inc. v. Indiana
State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 748 N.E.2d 943, 952 (Ind. Tax. Ct. 2001).
At the administrative hearing, Weston claimed that its improvement should have been priced
as a kit building or, in the alternative, assigned a D grade rather
than a C grade.
See footnote To support its claim, Weston presented photographs of
the interior and exterior of the building and a report titled Assessment Review
and Analysis (Analysis) prepared by its property assessment consultant, Lance K. Rickard (Rickard)
of Landmark Appraisals, Inc. In this brief report, Rickard stated that [t]he
subject property does
not conform to the base specifications of the pricing schedules
[for C grade buildings]. (Joint Ex. 3 at 3 (emphasis in original).)
Furthermore, he concludes that [t]he subject propertys warehouse and manufacturing sections are
mostly light pre-engineered steel frame with metal siding [consistent with a kit building
and] should be graded no higher than a D. (Joint Ex. 3
Such statements are nothing more than conclusions and do not constitute probative evidence.
As this Court has in the past stated, [such] contentions are conclusory
because they do not specifically detail why the improvements better resemble the description
of D grade improvements as set forth in [the Indiana Administrative Code].
A taxpayers conclusory statements do not constitute probative evidence concerning the grading of
the subject improvement. Miller Structures, Inc., 748 N.E.2d at 953.
Consequently, Weston failed to present a prima facie case and the determination
of the State Board stands.
For the reasons stated above, this Court AFFIRMS the determination of the State
The State Board of Tax Commissioners (State Board) was originally the Respondent
in this appeal. However, the legislature abolished the State Board as of
December 31, 2001. 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 119(b)(2). Effective January
1, 2002, the legislature created the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF),
Indiana Code § 6-1.1-30-1.1 (West Supp. 2001)(eff. 1-1-02); 2001 Ind. Acts 198 §
66, and the Indiana Board of Tax Review (Indiana Board). Ind. Code
§ 6-1.5-1-3 (West Supp. 2001)(eff. 1-1-02); 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 95.
Pursuant to Indiana Code § 6-1.5-5-8, the DLGF is substituted for the State
Board in appeals from final determinations of the State Board that were issued
before January 1, 2002. Ind. Code § 6-1.5-5-8 (West Supp. 2001)(eff. 1-1-02);
2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 95. Nevertheless, the law in effect prior
to January 1, 2002 applies to these appeals. Id. See also
2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 117. Although the DLGF has been substituted
as the Respondent, this Court will still reference the State Board throughout this
In addition, Weston raises various state and federal constitutional claims that this
Court has declined to reach in previous cases.
See, e.g., Barth, Inc.
v. State Bd. of Tax Commrs, 756 N.E.2d 1124, 1127 n.1 (Ind. Tax.
Ct. 2001). Because Westons claims and supporting arguments are identical to those
previously rejected by the Court, the Court will not address them.
However, the State Board did determine that an excessive amount of land
was classified as primary and adjusted the assessment accordingly. (Stip. R. at
7, 13.) That determination was not challenged in this appeal.
Footnote: Weston argues that the State Boards finding of 322 linear feet of
wall [that] is completely steel sandwich panel siding is an implicit acknowledgment by
the State Board that its improvement is a kit building. (
R. at 12.) Weston, however, failed to support this conclusion through probative
evidence. In other words, Weston was required to show how under the
regulations, 322 feet of sandwich paneling made its improvement a kit building.
Consequently, its argument fails on this point. See Miller Structures, Inc., 748
N.E.2d 943 at 953 (a taxpayer challenging a grade assessment must present evidence
specifically demonstrating why the particular improvement at issue better resembles an alternative grade).