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Blesich v. Lake County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

December 30, 2015

MIRKO BLESICH, Petitioner,
v.
LAKE COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent

          MIRKO BLESICH, PETITIONER, Pro se, St. John, IN.

         ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA, ANDREW T. GREIN, JESSICA R. GASTINEAU, DEPUTY ATTORNEYS GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.

Page 15

          ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW

         FISHER, Senior Judge.

         Mirko Blesich challenges the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review that valued his real property at $300,000 for the 2007 through 2010 tax years. Upon review, the Court affirms the Indiana Board's final determination.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Blesich owns a single-family dwelling located in St. John, Indiana. During the years at issue, the Lake County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) assigned Blesich's property the following assessed values: $320,000 for 2007, $320,000 for 2008, $300,900 for 2009, and $320,000 for 2010. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 4, 12, 21, 28.) Believing these values to be too high, Blesich filed four appeals with the Indiana Board on May 31, 2010.

         The Indiana Board conducted a consolidated hearing on the appeals on June 9, 2014. During the hearing, the Indiana Board's administrative law judge determined that because the PTABOA's 2007 assessment represented an increase of more than 5% from the previous year's final assessed value of $300,000, the Lake County Assessor bore the burden of proving under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 that the assessment was correct. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 92-93.) The administrative law judge also indicated that the party who would bear the burden of proof in each of the remaining years at issue would be contingent upon the party who prevailed on the preceding year's assessment challenge; as a result, she recommended that each party make its best case for each year. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 92-93.)

         To that end, both the Assessor and Blesich presented evidence in support of their positions. Specifically, the Assessor presented data relating to four properties that sold in Blesich's neighborhood in 2006. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 82-86, 99-100.) The Assessor claimed that given the average sales price per square foot for these four properties, Blesich's 2007 assessment

Page 16

should be reduced to $311,000.[1] (See Cert. Admin. R. at 82, 99-100.) Blesich, on the other hand, presented an appraisal report that valued his property at $275,000 as of March 9, 2012. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 60-77, 123.) Blesich also presented evidence to show the sales prices per square foot of three properties on his street, which he argued were more comparable to his property than the properties that were offered by the Assessor. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 59, 78, 103-04.) Blesich maintained that this evidence demonstrated that his property should have been assessed at $270,000 for 2007, $248,500 for 2008, $257,000 for 2009, and $260,000 for 2010. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 2, 10, 19, 26, 107.)

         On September 4, 2014, the Indiana Board issued a final determination in the matter. In that final determination, the Indiana Board held that while the Assessor bore the burden of proving that the assessed values were correct for all four of the years at issue, she failed to satisfy that burden because she failed to demonstrate how the properties in her sales data were comparable to Blesich's property. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 47-50 ¶ ¶ 16, 17(c), 18(a)-(d).) The Indiana Board then explained that while Blesich had an opportunity under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2 to present evidence to show what the proper assessments should have been, his evidentiary presentation suffered from the same infirmity as the Assessor's: in presenting his sales data, he too failed to demonstrate how the properties were comparable to his. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 47-49 ¶ ¶ 15, 17(f).) Moreover, the Indiana Board explained that Blesich's appraisal carried no weight because it was dated March 9, 2012, which was too far removed from any of the valuation dates at issue. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 49 ¶ 17(g).) Accordingly, the Indiana Board ordered Blesich's 2007 through 2010 assessments to revert to the property's 2006 assessed value of $300,000. (Cert. Admin. R. at 47 ¶ 15, 50 ¶ 19 (both referring to Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2(b) (2014) (explaining that when neither party's evidence proves what the correct assessment should be, the assessed value reverts to the previous year's final assessed value)).)

         On October 8, 2014, Blesich initiated this original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on September 16, 2015. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.

         STANDARD ...


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