BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
DARREL HIEB FROM A DECISION )
OF THE WESTON COUNTY BOARD OF ) Docket No. 2000-139
EQUALIZATION - 2000 PROPERTY )
FINDINGS OF FACT
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DECISION AND ORDER
Darrel Hieb, Petitioner, appearing pro se.
Kurt Kremke, Weston County Assessor, appearing pro se.
This matter was considered by the State Board of Equalization (SBOE) consisting of Edmund J. Schmidt, Chairman, Roberta A. Coates, Vice-Chairman, and Sylvia Lee Hackl, Member, on written information pursuant to a Briefing Order (Locally Assessed Property) dated October 4, 2000. The appeal arises from a decision of the Weston County Board of Equalization (CBOE) affirming the 2000 valuation by the Weston County Assessor (Assessor) of property owned by Darrel Hieb (Petitioner) located at 501 Delaware Avenue, Newcastle, Weston County, Wyoming. Petitioner contends that the increase in valuation, from 1999 to 2000, of the structure on his property was not justified, for two reasons:
1. He made no changes to the structure, a double-wide mobile home; and
2. His property was valued using a different method than that used
to value neighbors' property, resulting in a substantially higher valuation,
assessment and taxes.
This SBOE finds the issue to be:
Was the CBOE decision affirming the Assessor's valuation of Petitioner's property supported by substantial evidence, according to procedures required by law, and neither arbitrary, capricious, nor inconsistent with law?
Petitioner appealed the 2000 assessment of the structure on his land, a
double-wide mobile home, located at 501 Delaware Avenue in Newcastle, Weston
County, Wyoming. The Assessor testified at the CBOE hearing that he valued
Petitioner's property using the Boeckh appraisal system.
Petitioner questioned the value assigned to the structure because he made no changes to the structure to increase its value, and his property was valued using a different method than that used to value neighbors' property, resulting in a substantially higher valuation, assessment and taxes.
The CBOE affirmed the Assessor's valuation of Petitioner's property. The CBOE issued its decision on July 13, 2000. Petitioner filed a letter with the SBOE on August 9, 2000, appealing the CBOE's decision.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. A videotape of the CBOE hearing was provided and reviewed by the SBOE.
2. Petitioner purchased the mobile home in 1998, the year in which it was built, for $76,863. [CBOE Record, pp.12, 24.]
3. The Assessor valued Petitioner's land and structures at $90,842 for 1999 and at $98,213 for 2000. There were no changes to the structure between the two years. [CBOE Record, pp. 15, 24-25.]
4. The Assessor testified that in 1996 and 1997, he discovered he was substantially under-valuing newer manufactured housing units using a mobile home appraisal system. He found that using the Boeckh appraisal system, and classifying newer manufactured housing units as "low quality stick built homes," produced valuations that were much closer to fair market value. Sometime between August and October of 1998, he began using the Boeckh appraisal system to value newer manufactured housing units. [CBOE Record, pp. 59-60; Videotape of hearing.]
5. Petitioner's property was valued using the Boeckh appraisal system in October of 1998. The Assessor admitted he used the old appraisal system in August when valuing the structures on neighboring properties, resulting in lower values for those properties, values which were also less-than-market values. [CBOE Record, pp. 15-25, 59-60; Videotape of hearing.]
6. The Assessor testified that he did not have sufficient staff to reappraise within one tax year all manufactured housing units under the Boeckh system. In response to questioning by the CBOE, the Assessor admitted that during the time it took to reappraise the properties, he could have continued to value all manufactured housing units using the previous method. He admitted he could have waited to actually assess the properties under the Boeckh appraisal system when all units had been reappraised. The Assessor testified, however, he felt it was paramount to value properties at fair market value as that information became available. [CBOE Record, pp. 59-60; Videotape of hearing.]
7. The Assessor valued Petitioner's property using six comparable sales of newer manufactured housing units, all of which were also valued using the Boeckh appraisal system. [CBOE Record, pp. 33-58; Videotape of hearing.]
8. The Assessor testified that the increase in the value of Petitioner's property between 1999 and 2000 was due to an appreciation of manufactured housing units during that time. [Videotape of hearing.]
9. Petitioner provided evidence that other manufactured housing units were valued either under the old system and/or at a lesser value than his property; however, Petitioner failed to present any evidence, other than his own opinion, that the Assessor's valuation of Petitioner's property using comparable sales was incorrect. [CBOE Record, pp. 16-23; Videotape of hearing.]
10. The CBOE issued its decision affirming the Assessor's valuation of the Petitioner's property on July 13, 2000.
11. Petitioner filed his Notice of Appeal with the SBOE on August 9, 2000.
12. Any Discussion above or Conclusion of Law below which includes a finding of fact may also be considered a Finding of Fact and, therefore, is incorporated herein by this reference.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
13. Petitioner's notice of appeal was timely filed and the SBOE has jurisdiction to determine this matter.
14. The SBOE's inquiry is limited to whether the 2000 value established by the Assessor and confirmed by the CBOE is: (a) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law; (b) in excess of statutory jurisdiction or authority; (c) without observance of procedures required by law; or (d) unsupported by substantial evidence. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, 9.
15. Article 15, Section 11 of the Wyoming Constitution provides that "[a]ll property. . . shall be uniformly assessed for taxation, and the legislature shall prescribe such regulations as shall secure a just valuation for taxation of all property, real and personal."
16. All taxable property must be valued annually at fair market value. Wyo. Stat. 39-13-103(b)(ii). Fair market value is defined as:
[T]he amount in cash, or terms reasonably equivalent to cash, a well informed buyer is justified in paying for a property and a well informed seller is justified in accepting, assuming neither party to the transaction is acting under undue compulsion, and assuming the property has been offered in the open market for a reasonable time . . ..
Wyo. Stat. 39-11-101(a)(vi).
17. All taxable property is to be valued at its fair market value. "[T]he department [of revenue] shall prescribe by rule and regulation the appraisal methods and systems for determining fair market value using generally accepted appraisal standards." Wyo. Stat. 39-13-103(b)(ii) [emphasis added].
18. An assessor's valuation is presumed valid, accurate and correct, a presumption which survives until overturned by credible evidence. Basin Electric Power Coop. v. Dept. of Revenue, 970 P.2d 841, 851 (Wyo. 1998).
19. The Assessor admitted he used different methods to value similar property. Thus, the SBOE does not presume the valuation to be valid, accurate or correct, because the Assessor's admission rebuts the presumption. The inquiry then becomes whether the record contains sufficient independent evidence to support the Assessor's valuation of Petitioner's property.
20. The question before the SBOE is whether there is substantial evidence in the record that reasonably supports the conclusions reached by the CBOE. As a reviewing body, we will not substitute our judgment for findings reasonably supported by evidence in the CBOE record. Laramie County Board of Equalization v. State Board, 915 P.2d 1184, 1188-1189 (Wyo. 1996); Amax Coal v. State Board of Equalization, 819 P.2d 825 (Wyo. 1991); Sage Club v. Employment Security Commission, 601 P.2d 1306, 1310 (Wyo. 1979). While substantial evidence may be less than the weight of the evidence, it cannot be clearly contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. As the Wyoming Supreme Court has stated, substantial evidence "is more than a mere scintilla of evidence or suspicion of a fact to be established." Mountain Fuel Supply Company v. Public Service Commission, 662 P.2d 878, 882 (Wyo. 1983). "Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept in support of the conclusions of the agency Amax Coal v. State Board of Equalization, 819 P.2d 825, 828 (Wyo. 1991).
21. The Wyoming Supreme Court has held that "an agency's action is arbitrary and capricious and must be reversed if any essential finding is not supported by substantial evidence." Amax Coal West, Inc., 896 P.2d 1329, 1335 (Wyo. 1995), citing Majority of working interest owners in Buck Draw Field Area v. Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 721 P.2d 1070, 1079 (Wyo. 1986) and Amax Coal vs. State Board of Equalization, 819 P.2d 825 (Wyo. 1991). "Substantial evidence is that quantum of relevant evidence which would be accepted by a reasonable mind as adequate to support the conclusion." Gray v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 896 P.2d 1347, 1348 (Wyo. 1995).
22. The CBOE accepted the appraisal of the Assessor. Sufficient independent evidence exists in the record to support the CBOE's conclusion that the Assessor properly determined the fair market value for Petitioner's property for the tax year 2000.
23. Petitioner did provide evidence that similar properties were valued by the Assessor at less than the value assigned to his property. The Assessor admitted that different methods were used to value the properties. However, the Assessor justified this unequal treatment by noting that he did not have sufficient staff to reappraise all manufactured housing units within one year. Ultimately, the SBOE believes the primary responsibility of the Assessor is to assess property at its fair market value. The Assessor carried his burden of showing that Petitioner's property was valued at fair market value. Petitioner was unable to demonstrate to the contrary. The inequities which Petitioner notes are unfortunate, but fail to establish that his property was not valued at its fair market value.
24. The SBOE finds that the CBOE's decision was not (a) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law; (b) in excess of statutory jurisdiction or authority; (c) without observance of procedures required by law; or (d) unsupported by substantial evidence.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED:
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary