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Betty L. Green Living Trust v. Morrill County Board of Equalization

Supreme Court of Nebraska

May 11, 2018

Betty L. Green Living Trust and Richard R. Green Living Trust, appellants,
v.
Morrill County Board of Equalization, appellee.

          1. Taxation: Judgments: Appeal and Error. Appellate courts review decisions rendered by the Tax Equalization and Review Commission for errors appearing on the record.

         2. Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing a judgment for errors appearing on the record, an appellate court's inquiry is whether the decision conforms to the law, is supported by competent evidence, and is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable.

         3. Taxation: Appeal and Error. Questions of law arising during appellate review of the Tax Equalization and Review Commission's decisions are reviewed de novo on the record.

         4. Administrative Law: Judgments. Whether an agency decision conforms to the law is by definition a question of law.

         5. Administrative Law: Judgments: Words and Phrases. Agency action is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable if it is taken in disregard of the facts or circumstances of the case, without some basis which would lead a reasonable and honest person to the same conclusion.

         6. Taxation: Valuation: Presumptions: Evidence. A presumption exists that a board of equalization has faithfully performed its official duties in making an assessment and has acted upon sufficient competent evidence to justify its action. That presumption remains until there is competent evidence to the contrary presented, and the presumption disappears when there is competent evidence adduced on appeal to the contrary. From that point forward, the reasonableness of the valuation fixed by the board of equalization becomes one of fact based upon all the evidence presented.

         7. Taxation: Valuation: Proof: Appeal and Error. The burden of showing a valuation to be unreasonable rests upon the taxpayer on appeal from the action of the board of equalization.

         [299 Neb. 934] 8. Taxation: Valuation: Proof. The burden of persuasion imposed on a complaining taxpayer is not met by showing a mere difference of opinion unless it is established by clear and convincing evidence that the valuation placed upon the property when compared with valuations placed on other similar property is grossly excessive and is the result of a systematic exercise of intentional will or failure of plain duty, and not mere errors of judgment.

         9. Taxation: Valuation: Witnesses. A resident owner who is familiar with his or her property and knows its worth is permitted to testify as to its value without further foundation. This principle rests upon the owner's familiarity with the property's characteristics, its actual and potential uses, and the owner's experience in dealing with it.

          Appeal from the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Affirmed.

          Timothy L. Moll and Anthony M. Aerts, of Rembolt Ludtke, L.L.R, for appellants.

          Travis R. Rodak, Morrill County Attorney, for appellee.

          Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, and Funke, JJ., and Colborn and Samson, District Judges.

          Miller-Lerman, J.

         NATURE OF CASE

         This appeal involves the valuations of certain grassland properties owned by the Betty L. Green Living Trust and the Richard R. Green Living Trust (the Trusts). The Trusts appeal from the July 18, 2017, order of the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) which affirmed the valuations which had been established by the Morrill County assessor and were approved by the Morrill County Board of Equalization (the Board). We affirm TERC's order.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Between them, the Trusts own five grassland parcels of agricultural and horticultural land located in Morrill County, Nebraska, the assessed valuations of which for tax year 2016 were the subject of protests. In its order, TERC dismissed

         [299 Neb. 935] the case involving a sixth property for lack of jurisdiction. The Trusts do not challenge that part of the decision, and therefore, we discuss only ...


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