BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
UINTA COUNTY ASSESSOR FROM )
A DECISION OF THE UINTA COUNTY ) Docket No. 2001-158
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2001 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
(ALI NEMAT PROPERTY) )
FINDINGS OF FACT
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DECISION AND ORDER
Kathy A. Ball, Uinta County Assessor and Petitioner, appearing pro se.
Ali Nemat, Taxpayer, not appearing or having filed a statement or brief in
accordance with the State Board of Equalization's Order.
This matter was considered by the State Board of Equalization (State
Board) 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 5, 2001, corrected October 9, 2001, and Order Granting
Extension of Time entered January 24, 2002. The appeal arises from a decision of the Uinta
County Board of Equalization (County Board) reversing the valuation of property owned by
Ali Nemat, located in Evanston, Uinta County, Wyoming. The issue on appeal is:
Was the County Board decision that the value of the property as assigned by the Assessor was in error and valuing the property at $127,339.00 supported by substantial evidence, in accordance with procedures required by law, and neither arbitrary, capricious, nor inconsistent with law?
The State Board is mandated to "hear appeals from county boards of
equalization . . . upon application of any interested person adversely affected" and
to 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 State Board within thirty
(30) days from entry of the county board decision. Rules, Wyoming State Board of
Equalization, Chapter 3, 2.
Petitioner appealed the decision of the County Board because the County
Board deducted a value for the swimming pool on the taxpayer's property.
The Taxpayer filed a Notice of Appeal with the County Board asserting that
his property value had "jumped" too much. At the hearing the Taxpayer introduced
two letters from appraisers stating that his swimming pool did not contribute to the value
of the property. The County Board found:
13. The record in the present appeal supports a finding of arbitrariness in changing the value of the pool from a negative $13,524 to $0 in the tax year 2001. No reason for such a change was given. No reason for such a change could be found by this board.
The County Board then granted the Taxpayer's request for relief, and
ordered that the value of the property be set at $127,339.00.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The property in dispute is a house, together with an outbuilding
containing a swimming pool and land located at Block 1 Lot 2, County Club Estates
Addition, commonly referred to as 1917 West Morse Lee Street, Evanston, Uinta County,
Wyoming. [County Board Record, Plaintiffs Exhibit 1].
2. The Assessor valued the property at $140,863, by adjusting for an
increase of value due to market demands, removing a negative adjustment for the swimming
pool and adding a value for the building containing the swimming pool.
3. Taxpayer appealed stating: "The price on year 1999 was $102,769 on
2000 it was $92,031 and on year 2001 it jump $140,863 more than 55% it is an unceptable
[sic] jump. [County Board Record p. 1].
4. Taxpayer stated the dispute is over a swimming pool which he cannot
use. He used it for two months the first year he owned the property and hasn't used it
since. [County Board Record, p. 3, and Tape Recording of Hearing].
5. Taxpayer introduced two letters about the value of the pool. Robert M.
Hughes, who signed as WY Certified RREA #55, stated: "Historically when these homes
have sold the built-in swimming pools have added no additional value in the market. Their
respective sales prices have been similar to homes equal in square footage that had no
swimming pools." Dave Kimball, who signed "Appraiser", wrote: "With
the cost of energy increasing a swimming pool becomes even less feasible and more of a
financial burden, thus little or no value could be assigned a swimming pool." The
authors of the letters did not appear or offer testimony. The letters do not fit any
standards for an appraisal. [County Board Record, pp.12-13].
6. The property was purchased in 1991 as a result of a foreclosure. [County
Board Record, p. 3]. The economy in the county has improved since the time the
property was purchased, and comparable properties have sold on the open market. As a
result of comparing the sales price to the Taxpayer's property, there was an adjustment by
the Assessor to bring the value of the property to market value. [Tape Recording
of County Board Hearing].
7. The Assessor explained the property was reviewed in 2000. She
discovered the swimming pool value had historically been subtracted from the value of the
property. The Assessor testified that subtracting the value of the pool was an error. The
Assessor corrected the error: she did not subtract the value of the pool, but also did not
add the value of the swimming pool to the assessment. The Assessor added the value of the
building where the pool is located as a storage shed.[County Board Record, p. 4,
Tape Recording of County Board Hearing].
8. The County Board issued its order on August 3, 2001. The Assessor
timely filed a Notice of Appeal with the State Board on August 30, 2001.
9. All other issues the Taxpayer addressed at the hearing were rejected by
the County Board. Because the Taxpayer failed to file a brief or appear before the State
Board, those other issues will not be addressed in this opinion.
10. 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
11. The Assessor's Notice of Appeal was timely filed and the State Board
has jurisdiction to determine this matter.
12. The State Board's inquiry is limited to whether the decision of the
County Board 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.
13. As a reviewing body, we will not substitute our judgment for findings
reasonably supported by evidence in the County Board 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, 819 P.2d at 828. "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).
14. 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, supra.
15. The relevant statute provides:
Wyo. Stat. 39-11-101. Definitions.
(a) As used in this act unless otherwise specifically provided:
(vi) "Fair market value" means the 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.
This same definition is found in the Department of Revenue Rules, Chapter
9, Section 2(f).
16. Assessors are to value property using the methods prescribed by the
Department of Revenue. Wyo. Stat. 39-13-103(b)(ii) and 39-11-102(c)(xv). The
methods to value property are: 1) the sales comparison approach, 2) the cost approach, 3)
the income or capitalized earnings approach, and 4) the Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal
approach. Rules, Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, 6. The Assessor used
the sales comparison approach to value the property.
17. An assessor's valuation is presumed valid, accurate and correct, which
presumption survives until overturned by credible evidence. Basin Electric Power Coop.
v. Dept. of Revenue, 970 P.2d 841, 851 (Wyo. 1998). The burden was on the Taxpayer to
demonstrate the property was overvalued.
18. The Assessor's valuation is based on experience, appraisal training
and knowledge of all the sales in the area. A mere difference of opinion as to value is
not sufficient to overcome the presumption that an assessor's valuation is presumed valid,
accurate, and correct. J. Ray McDermott & Company v. Hudson, 370 P.2d 364,
370 (Wyo. 1962).
19. There was no evidence to support subtracting the value of the
swimming pool from the value of the home. The evidence, the uncorroborated letters
introduced by the Petitioner, supports not adding any value for the pool. [County
Board Record, pp.12-13]. The Assessor did not add any value to the property for
the swimming pool. The Assessor simply removed the negative value from the prior
assessment and added $12,960 to the property for the value of the outbuilding where the
pool was located as a storage shed. The Assessor's actions were supported by the evidence.
The County Board's findings are not support by any evidence, whatsoever. Therefore, it is
necessary to reverse the County Board's Order.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED:
A. The decision of the Uinta County Board of Equalization setting the fair
market value at $127,339.00 for the Taxpayer's property located at 1917 West Morse Lee
Street, Evanston, Uinta County, Wyoming, shall be and the same is hereby reversed.
B. The matter is remanded to the County Board to set the value of the
property in accordance with the Assessor's value of $140,863.00 for tax year 2001.
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 2nd day of May, 2002.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Edmund J. Schmidt, Chairman
Roberta A. Coates, Vice-Chairman
Sylvia Lee Hackl, Member
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary