ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONERS: ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
MICHAEL L. MUENICH STEVE CARTER
ATTORNEY AT LAW ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
Highland, IN Indianapolis, IN
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
INDIANA TAX COURT
HAROLD G. MUENICH and )
MICHAEL L. MUENICH (as TRUSTEE OF )
THE GEORGE A. MUENICH TRUST ), )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-0208-TA-99
NORTH TOWNSHIP ASSESSOR, )
ON APPEAL FROM TWO FINAL DETERMINATIONS OF
THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW
November 14, 2003
The Petitioners, Harold G. Muenich and Michael L. Muenich (as Trustee of the
George A. Muenich Trust), appeal from two final determinations of the Indiana Board
of Tax Review (Indiana Board) valuing their land for the 1995 assessment year.
The issue for the Court to decide is whether the Indiana Board
erred in valuing the Muenichs land.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
The Muenichs own two vacant parcels of land in North Township,
Lake County, Indiana. The Muenichs rent spaces on the lots to local
businesses to use for employee parking.
In accordance with Indiana Code § 6-1.1-4-13.6 (1993), the Lake County Land Valuation
Commission and the State Board of Tax Commissioners (State Board) promulgated a land
order for use by Lake County assessing officials for the 1995 general reassessment.
Under that land order, the base rate value of the Muenichs land
could vary between $150 per front foot and $200 per front foot.
(See Cert. Admin. R. at 155.) On one parcel, the Muenichs land
was valued at $200 per front foot. On the other parcel, the
Muenichs land was valued at $250 per front foot.
The Muenichs challenged the assessments by filing two Form 131 Petitions for Review
of Assessment with the State Board. On July 20, 1999, the State
Board conducted a hearing on the Muenichs appeal. On June 21, 2002,
the Indiana Board
See footnote issued a final determination affirming the valuation of the land
on the first lot, but reducing the front foot value of the second
lot from $250 to $200.
Still believing the assessments to be too high, the Muenichs filed an appeal
with this Court on July 31, 2002. The Court heard the parties
oral arguments on July 18, 2003. Additional facts will be supplied as
STANDARD OF REVIEW
This Court gives great deference to final determinations of the Indiana Board.
Wittenberg Lutheran Vill. Endowment Corp. v. Lake County Prop. Tax Assessment Bd. of
Appeals, 782 N.E.2d 483, 486 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003), review denied. Consequently,
the Court will reverse a final determination of the Indiana Board only if
(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;
(2) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity;
(3) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory jurisdiction,
authority, or limitations;
(4) without observance of procedure required by law; or
(5) unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence.
Ind. Code § 33-3-5-14.8(e)(1)-(5) (2002). The party seeking to overturn the Indiana
Boards final determination bears the burden of proving its invalidity. Osolo Township
Assessor v. Elkhart Maple Lane Assocs., L.P., 789 N.E.2d 109, 111 (Ind. Tax
In 1995, real property in Indiana was valued on the basis of its
true tax value. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-31-6(c) (1986). The true tax
value of real property was not its market value but, rather, the value
as determined from an application of the State Boards property assessment regulations.
See id. Nevertheless, the Indiana legislature provided guidance to the State Board,
by enacting Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6, as to what factors were to be
considered when determining the true tax value of land. That statute provided:
(a) With respect to the assessment of real property, the rules of
the state board of tax commissioners shall provide for:
(1) the classification of land on the basis of:
productivity or earning capacity;
applicable zoning provisions;
accessibility to highways, sewers,
and other public services or facilities; and
any other factor that the board determines
by rule is just and proper.
* * * * *
(b) With respect to the assessment of real property, the rules of
the state board of tax commissioners shall include instructions for determining:
the proper classification of real property;
the size of real property;
the effects that location and use have on the value of real
the depreciation, including physical deterioration and
obsolescence, of real property;
the cost of reproducing improvements;
the productivity or earning capacity of land; and
the true tax value of real property based on the factors
listed in this subsection and any other factor that the
board determines by rule is just and proper.
Ind. Code § 6-1.1-31-6(a) & (b).
In turn, the State Board promulgated rules providing that each county was to
have its own land valuation commission to collect and analyze sales data on
non-agricultural (i.e., residential, commercial, and industrial) land within the county and, on the
basis of that data, the commission was to determine the values of the
land contained therein. See Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-4-5 (1996).
These values were either accepted or modified by the State Board, without
further input from the county commissions. See I.C. § 6-1.1-4-13.6; Ind. Admin.
Code tit. 50, r. 2.2-4-3(a) (1996). The State Board's final figures were
then compiled in a County Land Valuation Order (land order).
The Muenichs complaint is two-fold. First, they assert that when the Indiana
Board valued their land pursuant to the Lake County Land Order, it violated
Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6. More specifically, the Muenichs argue that because the
Lake County Land Order does not take into account the factors listed in
Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6(a), the Indiana Boards final determination is not in accordance
with law. (See Petrs Br. at 6.) The Court construes this
argument as challenging the validity of the land order on its face.
Second, the Muenichs assert that while they submitted evidence as to the actual
value of their land (based on the factors listed in Indiana Code §
6-1.1-31-6), the Indiana Board simply disregarded that evidence. As a result, the
Muenichs contend that the Indiana Boards final determination is unsupported by substantial or
reliable evidence. (See Petrs Br. at 5.) The Court construes this
argument as a challenge to the validity of the land order as applied.
Challenging the Land Order on its Face: The Relationship Between
Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6 and Land Orders
The Muenichs argue that the Lake County Land Order is invalid because it
does not consider the factors specifically listed in Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6(a).
The Muenichs are incorrect.
Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court held that Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6 did not
support the position that all the factors listed therein must be considered when
determining values contained within a land order; rather, the statute required only that
the State Board take the listed factors into consideration when it promulgated its
rules for real property assessment. State Bd. of Tax Commrs v. Indianapolis
Racquet Club, Inc., 743 N.E.2d 247, 251 (Ind. 2001). In other words,
the Supreme Court explained that in enacting Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6, the legislature
 dictated factors that must be considered in the State Boards rules for
assessment of real property, [but] it  left it to the Boards discretion
to adopt rules that accomplish that end. In simple terms, the statute
directs the goal, but not the means. Id. Consequently, the Supreme
Court ruled that, in compiling land orders, the State Boards use of actual
market sales data as a proxy for the listed criteria of Indiana Code
§ 6-1.1-31-6 was proper:
[the] use of comparable sales is an appropriate assessment procedure, and  it
[was] well within the discretion of the State Board to promulgate rules that
give appropriate consideration to the nine statutory factors by looking to actual sales
data, and making the rational assumption that the cumulative effect of the individual
factors is reflected in the sales prices reached by buyers and sellers in
Id. B. Challenging the Land Order as Applied
Given the holding in Indianapolis Racquet Club, this Court cannot say that the
Lake County Land Order is invalid on its face, nor that the Indiana
Board violated Indiana Code § 6-1.1-31-6 when it valued the Muenichs land pursuant
to the Order. Consequently, the Indiana Boards final determination is in accordance
The Muenichs also claim that the Lake County Land Order is invalid
as applied. More specifically, they contend that their assessment is unsupported by
substantial evidence because they submitted evidence at the administrative hearing indicating that the
assessed value of their land exceeds its actual market value.
See footnote Thus, the
Muenichs contend, the assessment . . . must be reversed and an appropriate
base rate  be assigned to the parcels according to [our] unrefuted evidence.
(Petrs Br. at 7.)
Under the 1995 assessment regulations, the true tax value of non-agricultural land approximated
its fair market value.
Town of St. John, et al. v. State
Bd. of Tax Commrs, 665 N.E.2d 965, 967 (Ind. Tax Ct. 1996), revd
on other grounds by 675 N.E.2d 318 (Ind. 1996). Nevertheless, the Indiana
Supreme Court has ruled that taxpayers do not have the substantive right to
individual assessments evaluating property wealth, nor [are they entitled to a] consideration of
independent property wealth evidence in [their] individual tax appeals. State Bd. of
Tax Commrs v. Town of St. John et. al, 702 N.E.2d 1034, 1043
(Ind. 1998). Consequently, the Muenichs are not entitled to a reduction merely
because an independent appraisal indicates that their propertys market value is less than
its assessed value. See id.
Rather, the Muenichs were required to frame their appeal within the context of
the relevant land order. In other words, to challenge the $200 per
front foot value applied to their land, the Muenichs must provide evidence showing
that either (1) comparable properties were assessed and taxed differently than their own
under the land order or (2) their land was improperly assessed under the
wrong section of the land order. See Blackbird Farms v. State Bd.
of Tax Commrs, 765 N.E.2d 711, 714 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2002); Park Steckley
I v. Dept of Local Govt Fin., 779 N.E.2d 1270, 1273 (Ind. Tax
Ct. 2002). Because the administrative record lacks such evidence, the Muenichs did
not make a prima facie case that the assessed value assigned to their
land is unsupported by substantial evidence.
For the aforementioned reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the Indiana Boards final determination.
On December 31, 2001, the legislature abolished the State Board of
Tax Commissioners (State Board). 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 119(b)(2). Effective
January 1, 2002, the legislature created the Indiana Board of Tax Review (Indiana
Board) as successor to the State Board.
Ind. Code §§ 6-1.5-1-3; 6-1.5-4-1;
2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 95. Thus, when a final determination was
issued on the Muenichs appeal in June 2002, it was issued by the
At the administrative hearing, the Muenichs submitted an appraisal of their land
for the 1995 tax year, an appraisal done on the property nearly 20
years ago, and an income and expense report for the property for the
years 1985 through 1999.