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Gillette v. Brown County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

June 7, 2016

KATHRYN GILLETTE, Petitioner,
v.
BROWN COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent

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

         ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: STUART T. BENCH, BENCH LAW OFFICE, Indianapolis, IN.

         ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT: MARILYN S. MEIGHEN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Carmel, IN.

          OPINION

         WENTWORTH, J.

         Kathryn Gillette challenges the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review that valued her real property at $592,000 for the 2009 tax year.[1] Upon review, the Court affirms the Indiana Board's final determination.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Gillette owns rental property on Sweetwater Lake in Nineveh, Indiana. In 2009, that property was assigned an assessed value of $636,500 ($102,400 for land and $534,100 for improvements). Believing this value to be too high, Gillette appealed her assessment first to the Brown County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals and then to the Indiana Board.

         On January 8, 2013, the Indiana Board conducted a hearing during which it determined that the Brown County Assessor bore the burden of proof because Gillette's assessment had increased by more than 5% from 2008 to 2009. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 99-103.) The Assessor indicated, however, she could make a prima facie case to support the 2009 assessment and asked the Indiana Board to reinstate Gillette's 2008 assessment of $592,000. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 113-15.)

         Gillette, on the other hand, claimed that her 2008 assessment of $592,000 was too high because her property was only worth about $440,000 in 2009. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 115, 142.) In support of her claim, Gillette testified that her land was worth about $40,000 because 80% of it abutted the road instead of the lake, and as a result, it often collected leaves and garbage. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 131-36.) Regarding the improvements, Gillette presented her rental insurance policy declarations, which indicated that for 2005 through 2012 the liability limits to rebuild her house were between $275,300 to $475,215. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 68-78, 124.) Gillette also presented two appraisals prepared for mortgage companies that valued her property at $260,000 as of September 1, 1998 and $482,000 as of April 21, 2006. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 40-67.) Finally, Gillette maintained that she could not sell her property for more than $600,000 and could not rent it for $2,500 per month, which indicated that its rental value was less than $250,000. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 36, 81, 83, 90-94, 122, 135-43.)

         On April 5, 2013, the Indiana Board issued its final determination stating that the Assessor had " admitted [that Gillette's] assessment should be reduced to $592,000[,]" the amount of the 2008 assessed value, for the 2009 tax year. (Cert. Admin. R. at 24 ¶ 20.) In addition, the Indiana Board found that Gillette had " failed to make a prima facie case for any assessed value less than that amount" because she " did not provide substantial, probative evidence to support her claim[.]" (See Cert. Admin. R. at 22-24 ¶ ¶ 19-20 (emphasis added).) Accordingly, the Indiana Board changed the 2009 assessed value to the prior year's assessed value of $592,000, " consistent with other Board final determinations where the Respondent failed to satisfy the burden imposed by Ind[iana] Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2." (Cert. Admin. R. at 22 ¶ 18.)

         On May 20, 2013, Gillette initiated this original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on June 2, 2014. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

          The party seeking to overturn an Indiana Board final determination bears the burden of demonstrating its invalidity. Osolo Twp. Assessor v. Elkhart Maple Lane Assocs.,789 N.E.2d 109, 111 (Ind.Tax Ct. 2003). The Court will reverse an Indiana Board final determination if it is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege or immunity; in excess of or short of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; without ...


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