BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
LARRY AND TERESA MOORE FROM )
A DECISION OF THE GOSHEN COUNTY ) Docket No. 2001-15
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - )
2000 PROPERTY VALUATION
FINDINGS OF FACT
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DECISION AND ORDER
Larry and Teresa Moore, Petitioners, appearing pro se.
Debbi Surratt, Goshen 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 March 12, 2001. The appeal arises from a decision of the Goshen County Board of Equalization (CBOE) affirming the 2000 valuation by the Goshen County Assessor (Assessor) of property owned by Larry and Teresa Moore (Petitioners), located at Lots 24 and 25, Dillman Country Estates, Torrington, Goshen County, Wyoming. Petitioners contend that the decision of the CBOE was in error, and the valuation of the structure on their property was too high, for two reasons:
1. There were inconsistencies in the valuation of other properties in the subdivision, with other properties valued at a lower amount, and in fact other valuations decreased from 1999 to 2000, whereas their valuation increased;
2. Conditions in the subdivision, especially roads and the water system, were deteriorating, causing a decrease in valuation.
This SBOE finds the issue to be:
Was the CBOE decision affirming the Assessor's valuation of Petitioners' property supported by substantial evidence, according to procedures required by law, and neither arbitrary, capricious, nor inconsistent with law?
The SBOE is mandated to "hear appeals from county boards of equalization . . .
upon application of any interested person adversely affected" and hold hearings after
due notice pursuant to the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act and prescribed rules and
regulations. Wyo. Stat. 39-11-102.1(c). An appeal from a county board of
equalization decision must be filed with the SBOE within thirty (30) days from entry of
the county board decision. Rules, Chapter 3, 2, Wyoming State Board of Equalization.
Petitioners appealed the 2000 assessment of the structure on their land, a bi-level
house built in 1980 in Dillman Country Estates, Torrington, Goshen County, Wyoming, and
purchased in 1996 by Petitioners. Petitioners questioned the value assigned to the
structure because of variations in valuation between houses in the subdivision, the lack
of county maintenance of the road in the subdivision, and pending litigation concerning
the adequacy of the subdivision's water system. Petitioners requested that the valuation
of the house be decreased to $97,500, the value assigned to another bi-level house in the
The Assessor testified that she valued Petitioners' property at $139,600, of which
$106,600 represented the value of the house. She used two different methods to calculate
the value: the CAMA system provided by the Department of Revenue, and the sales comparison
method. These two approaches resulted in valuations of $107,300 and $106,600,
respectively. She also double-checked the valuation using the "actual cost"
method, which resulted in a valuation of $109,230. The Assessor testified that she had not
seen any sale in the subdivision being affected by the problems in the subdivision, so she
considered the sales comparison method to have produced a valid value.
The CBOE affirmed the Assessor's valuation of Petitioners' property. The CBOE first
heard this matter on July 6, 2000, and issued a decision from which Petitioners appealed.
However, the matter was remanded to the CBOE by the SBOE due to the lack of an adequate
recording of the hearing. The CBOE reconvened on December 6, 2000, for a second hearing.
The CBOE issued its decision on December 11, 2000. Petitioners filed a letter with the
SBOE on December 29, 2000, appealing the CBOE's decision.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The house in which Petitioners live was built in 1980. Petitioners purchased the
property, consisting of two lots and the structure, in 1996, for $111,800. At the time of
purchase, the assessed value was $107,800. [CBOE Record, Exhibit A, pp. 2, 15-16.](1)
2. The value of Petitioners' land and structure, located in a rural residential
subdivision, has increased steadily since the time of purchase, as reflected in the
Assessor's control sheets [CBOE Record, Exhibit A, pp. 7, 9]:
Lot 24 Land Building Total
1997 10,400 88,300 98,700
1998 13,900 103,300 117,200
1999 13,900 103,500 117,400
2000 17,600 106,600 124,200
1997 9,100 -0- 9,100
1998 12,100 -0- 12,100
1999 12,100 -0- 12,100
2000 15,400 -0- 15,400
3. On April 10, 2000, the Assessor issued 2000 Notices of Assessment, assigning a value
of $124,200 for Lot 24 (and the house), and $15,400 for Lot 25, for a total value of
$139,600. [CBOE Record, Exhibit A, pp. 5-6.]
4. Assessor valued the property using two different methods: the Computer-Assisted Mass
Appraisal (CAMA) system provided by the Department of Revenue, and the sales comparison
method. These two approaches resulted in valuations of $107,300 and $106,600,
respectively. Because there was a sufficient number of sales in the county, the Assessor
used the sales comparison approach to value all rural subdivision properties in 2000,
including those in Dillman Country Estates. The Assessor double-checked the valuation of
Petitioners' property using the "actual cost" method, which resulted in a
valuation of $109,230. [CBOE Record, Exhibit A, p. 2; Audiotape of hearing, direct
testimony of Debbi Surratt.]
5. The "Comp Selection" sheet, listing the comparison properties used to
establish the value of Petitioners' property, had both "comp index" and
"field control" numbers indicating the selected properties were appropriate to
use in determining the value of Petitioners' house. [CBOE Record, Exhibit A, p.
13; Audiotape of hearing, testimony of Debbi Surratt in response to cross-examination.]
6. The subdivision road was deteriorating, and there existed a disagreement between the
homeowners and the County Commissioners with respect to responsibility for its
maintenance. In addition, the homeowners had consulted with counsel regarding the
possibility of pursuing litigation against the developer concerning his alleged failure to
upgrade the water system. [CBOE Record, Petitioners' Summary of Contentions;
Exhibit B, pp. 1-3, 13-19; Audiotape of hearing, direct testimony of Larry Moore.]
7. The Assessor was aware of the problems in the subdivision, but had no evidence of
valid sales indicating that the situation was affecting value. [CBOE Record,
Exhibit A, p. 3; Audiotape of hearing, direct testimony of Debbi Surratt.]
8. Petitioners presented copies of the Assessor's control sheets, showing the valuation
history of 18 properties in the subdivision. Petitioners contended that theirs was the
only house which increased in value from 1999 to 2000, and that the only other bi-level in
the subdivision decreased, from $99,400 to $97,500. The control sheets also showed that
the value of the land in the subdivision increased from 1999 to 2000 for each property
noted, and that, overall, the total valuation increased on 5 properties, and decreased on
13, using the sales comparison approach. [CBOE Record, Petitioners' Summary of
Appraised Homes and 18 attached control sheets; Audiotape of hearing, direct testimony of
9. Petitioners presented current listing agreements of houses they believed to be
better comparators to their home. The properties for sale ranged from $89,500 to $119,500.
[CBOE Record, Listing agreements.]
10. Petitioners requested that their home be valued at $97,500, the assessed value of
the Wisroth's house, the other bi-level in the subdivision. This was a decrease of $9,100.
The Assessor testified that the difference in valuation between the two homes was the 306
square foot hot tub room on the back of Petitioners' home, valued at $10,000. [CBOE
Record, Exhibit A, p. 9; Exhibit B, p. 10; Audiotape of hearing, direct testimony of Larry
Moore; testimony of Debbi Surratt in response to cross-examination.]
10. The Assessor testified that land values in Dillman Country Estates had increased
37% since 1997. She also testified that total valuations in the county had increased on
the average of 5 to 12% over the past five years. She did not have an explanation,
however, for the decrease in value of the other bi-level house in the subdivision, the
Wisroth's. [CBOE Record, Exhibit A, p. 2; Audiotape of hearing, testimony of Debbi
Surratt in response to cross-examination.]
11. Petitioners did not present any evidence at the hearing before the CBOE indicating
that the Assessor had not followed the applicable law or rules of the Department of
Revenue in determining the fair market value of their property.
12. The CBOE issued its decision on December 11, 2000. [CBOE Record, Order of
the Goshen County Board of Equalization.]
13. Petitioners filed their Notice of Appeal with the SBOE on December 29, 2000.
14. 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
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
15. Petitioners' notice of appeal was timely filed and the SBOE has jurisdiction to
determine this matter.
16. This Board'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, Chapter 3, 9, Wyoming State Board of Equalization.
17. Petitioners have not asserted, and our review of the record has not revealed, any
evidence that the actions of either the Assessor or the CBOE were in excess of statutory
jurisdiction or authority, or without observance of procedures required by law.
18. Therefore, 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 of Equalization,
915 P.2d 1184, 1189 (Wyo. 1996); Amax Coal v. State Board of Equalization, 819
P.2d 825 (Wyo. 1991); Sage Club, Inc. 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, supra at 828.
19. 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. v. State Board of Equalization, 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 v. State Board of Equalization, supra. "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).
20. 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."
21. All taxable property must be valued annually at fair market value. Wyo. Stat.
39-13-103(b)(ii). The Department of Revenue is to "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). 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).
22. 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). A mere difference of opinion as to
value is not sufficient to overturn this presumption. Id. The presumption is
especially valid where, as here, the Assessor valued the property according to the
Department's Rules and Regulations which prescribe the use of the CAMA system in the
assessment of real property.
23. Petitioners' evidence of road maintenance and water system problems in the
subdivision, of variations between the valuations of structures in the subdivision, or of
current selling prices of houses in the Torrington area, was not sufficient standing alone
to demonstrate the Assessor's methods or values were in error, or that the CBOE decision
was not based on substantial evidence.
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.
25. The constitutional and statutory duties of this SBOE are limited to a consideration of property valuation issues. The SBOE therefore does not have authority to address the second issue raised by Petitioners dealing with road maintenance in their subdivision.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED:
The decision of the Goshen County Board of Equalization affirming the Assessor's 2000
valuation of Petitioners' property located at Lots 24 and 25, Dillman Country Estates,
Torrington, Goshen County, Wyoming, is affirmed.
Pursuant to Wyo. Stat. 16-3-114 and Rule 12, Wyoming Rules of
Appellate Procedure, any person aggrieved or adversely affected in fact by
this decision may seek judicial review in the appropriate district court by filing a
petition for review within 30 days of the date of this decision.
DATED this 27th day of July, 2001.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Edmund J. Schmidt, Chairman
Roberta A. Coates, Vice-Chairman
Sylvia Lee Hackl, Member
Wendy Soto, Executive Secretary
1. The pages in the record are not numbered. However, the Assessor submitted two exhibits, A and B, which consist of documents in support of her testimony and the Petitioners', respectively. The pages within those exhibits are numbered. Therefore, when possible, reference will be made to the appropriate exhibit and the page number within the exhibit. Other documents in the record, not contained within the exhibits, will be referenced by title.