BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
NATRONA COUNTY ASSESSOR FROM )
A DECISION OF THE NATRONA COUNTY ) Docket No. 2001-202
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2001 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
(SHAMLEY PROPERTY) )
FINDINGS OF FACT
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DECISION AND ORDER
William W. Harden, Deputy Natrona County Attorney, appearing for Petitioner, Susan
Dewitt, Natrona County Assessor.
Larry W. Harrington, appearing for Richard Shamley, Taxpayer.
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 January 14, 2002. The appeal arises from a decision of the Natrona County Board of
Equalization (County Board). The issue before the State Board is:
Was the County Board decision that the value of the property as assigned by the Assessor was in error and setting the value of the property at $155,000.00 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.
Assessor appeals the decision because the property was valued using the Computer
Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system and no errors were demonstrated in the Assessor's
use of the system. The Assessor argued the comparative market analysis (CMA) introduced by
the Taxpayer was flawed because the property was compared to much older and different
style of houses .
Taxpayer argues the market analysis was sufficient to shift the burden to the assessor
to prove her valuation and she failed to do so.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. This appeal concerns property located at 1550 S. Center Street, Perry's Lot 7,
Casper, Natrona County, Wyoming. [County Board Record, pp. 67, 68].
2. The Assessor valued the property at $192,750.00. Taxpayer wanted the property valued
at $155,000.00. [County Board Record, p. 33]. The house is 1800 square
feet on the ground floor and 900 square feet on the lower floor. [County Board
Record, p. 35].
3. Taxpayer appealed stating, "Market analysis provided by Barnard Real Est Group
Dated 12/8/00. The Recent sale of Home @1565 S David is 70.86/sq. ft. - You have valued my
home @ 110.08/sq. ft."[County Board Record, p. 1].
4. Richard Shamley was the only party appearing before the County Board of
Equalization. The Notice of Property Value and Estimated Taxes shows ownership as
"Shamley, Wilma L. et al Trustees." We will assume Richard Shamley is a
representative of the trust. [County Board Record, pp. 67, 68].
5. Taxpayer introduced a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) signed by J. J. Ressler of
Barnard Real Estate Group and dated December 8, 2000. [County Board Record, p.
35]. The person preparing the CMA neither appeared nor were his qualifications
established. A CMA is not the equivalent of an appraisal. The CMA does not contain the
assurances required of a qualified appraiser who has no pecuniary interest in the value.
In fact, a CMA is typically prepared by a real estate agent who is seeking to list the
property in expectation of a commission.
6. The CMA compared the subject property, built in 1972, to three other properties. The
other houses were over seventy years old, decades older than the subject property. The CMA
adjusted for age by $5,000, but there was no explanation about how the amount of the
adjustment was determined. The subject property is a ranch style house but the other
houses were not. There is a note on the CMA that the subject property has only two
bedrooms on the main floor, but no explanation is given as to how much this may affect the
value of the house. [County Board Record, p. 10].
7. Taxpayer also introduced into the record the listing of a house in the neighborhood
for which he calculated the asking price at $70.86 per square feet. [County Board
Record, p. 11]. If the total square feet of the subject property were divided
into the Assessor's value the square foot value would be $80.80.
8. The Assessor testified the Taxpayer's property was valued using the CAMA multiple
regression analysis (MRA) system to generate comparable sales. This is a computer system
that contains all the sales information for the county. The system is able to sort sales
of all properties, and compares properties with properties in the neighborhood, properties
similar in age, similar in size and similar in style. The system also compares other
significant attributes. [County Board Record, p. 12]. The advantage of
the computer system is that it has more sold properties with which to compare, and can
more efficiently sort for similar properties, than can a realtor preparing a CMA.
9. In its order, the County Board found that the "Assessor has assessed this
property pursuant to guidelines established by the Ad Valorem Tax Division of the State of
Wyoming with the State Board of Equalization." [County Board Order, Paragraph
4]. The County Board also acknowledged that the "Assessor's valuation is
presumed valid, accurate and correct." [County Board Order, Paragraph 7].
However, the County Board then held that "[t]he CMA is sufficient evidence to
overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor's value." [County Board
Order, Paragraph 9].
10. The County Board issued its order on November 27, 2001. The written order was and
indeed the hearing was held, well after the date set forth in state law for the conclusion
of these cases. Wyoming Statute Section 39-13-102(c)(v) requires a county board of
equalization to "decide all protests heard and provide the protestant with a written
decision no later than the first Monday is August." (Emphasis
added). This deadline enables a county board of equalization to have all tax protest
completed before it set mill levies, as it is required to do by the first Tuesday in
August. Wyo. Stat. 39-13-102(g). However, if the State Board were to set aside the Order
it would ultimately punish the taxpayer which the State Board is reluctant to do therefore
the case will be reviewed on its merits. The State Board strongly cautions the County
Board against ignoring the statutory deadlines in future cases, since such deadlines are
essential both to taxpayer's rights and to the setting of proper mill levies.
11. The Assessor timely filed the Notice of Appeal with the State Board on December 11,
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
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
13. The Assessor's Notice of Appeal was timely filed and the State Board has
jurisdiction to determine this matter.
14. 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.
15. 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).
16. 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.
17. 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
17. 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 when she used the CAMA system. If an Assessor
utilizes one of the appraisal methods prescribed by the Department, in this case the CAMA
system, and uses the method correctly, then presumably the assessor has valued the
property uniformly and correctly. The CAMA system has been held by the Wyoming Supreme
Court to conform to the equal and uniform taxation requirements of the Wyoming
Constitution. Gray v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 896 P.2d 1347 (Wyo.
18. The fact that a county assessor is a public official gives rise to the oft-stated
presumption that a public officer, acting in his official capacity, is presumed to act
with knowledge of what he is doing and of the material facts upon which his official
action is predicated. 29 Am. Jur. 2d, 203. However, this is a rebuttable
presumption which means that it can be overturned upon a showing of sufficient proof. 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. It follows then that when an assessor acts in
his or her official capacity, the valuation is presumed to have been performed properly,
and the taxpayer has the burden of proving the impropriety of the assessment. In other
words, the taxpayer must offer evidence on the record that the county assessor failed to
assess the property in a manner consistent with the directives of the Department . Teton
Valley Ranch v. State Board of Equalization, 735 P.2d 107, 113, (Wyo. 1987).
19. In working with the presumption of correctness in favor of an assessor, the County Board generally should consider a two-part process. First, the County Board should decide whether there is enough evidence to overcome the presumption. If it determines that the taxpayer has introduced sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption, then the burden shifts to the assessor to indicate how the property was valued and the County Board should then require the assessor to show the basis for the assessment, allowing the taxpayer an opportunity to cross-examine the assessor and rebut the evidence presented.
20. The State Board regularly reviews appeals from county boards of equalization involving the value set by a county assessor. Time and again taxpayers have introduced into evidence only a differing opinion of what they believe the value of the property should be. "A mere difference of opinion as to value is not sufficient to overcome the Assessor's presumption of validity." J. Ray McDermott & Company, Inc. v. Hudson, 370 P.2d 364, 370 (Wyo. 1962). Taxpayers and county boards of equalization would do well to pay heed to the guidelines suggested by the Wyoming Supreme Court in Gray v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 896 P.2d 856, 862 (Wyo. 1995). The Court stated "[t]he fact Petitioner has a difference of opinion as to the value of the property is not sufficient to demonstrate the assessor's value is in error, or the county board of equalization decision lacks substantial evidentiary basis. Petitioner offered no credible evidence to demonstrate the use of the cost method or the CAMA system employed by the county assessor and the valuations derived therefrom were erroneous."
21. 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 assessor's presumption of correctness. J. Ray McDermott & Company
v. Hudson, 370 P.2d 364, 370 (Wyo. 1962).
22. We now turn to the specific findings of the County Board. The County Board found
the CMA was sufficient to overcome the presumption that the Assessor's valuation was
valid, accurate, and correct. However, the County Board also found:
The CMA is good evidence, the comparison used by both parties are in the general geographic area. The Board accepts the CMA as the best evidence in this matter.
The CMA was not the best evidence. It was based on unsupported adjustments by an
individual whose qualifications were not established. It was prepared by a party with a
potential pecuniary interest. It used comparable sales that were much older than the
subject property and not the same style of house. The Assessor, on the other hand,
provided evidence of contemporary comparable sales that buttressed the CAMA system
23. The County Board's order in paragraph 8 is flawed. Had it been completed correctly
it may have provided information to support the County Board's decision. Paragraph 8
8. We find that the most appropriate valuation of the property was received from:
______(A) Assessor, as the Petitioner's evidence does not indicate that the Assessor failed to properly use the Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system, and adjustment by the county Assessor's staff.
___X__(B) Petitioner, as comparable sales and appraisals in the same neighborhood justify a reduction in assessed value.
For the following reason:
The reason was left blank. We assume the CMA was accepted because of the language in
paragraph 8 of the County Board decision, but an assumption has to be made and there may
have been other reasons to find for the Petitioner but this order is insufficient.
24. The Assessor's valuation was supported by the evidence. The County Board's Order is
not supported by substantial evidence. Therefore it is necessary to reverse the County
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED:
A. The decision of the Natrona County Board of Equalization setting the fair market
value at $155,000.00 for the Taxpayer's property located at 1550 S. Center, Perry's Lot 7,
Casper, Natrona County, Wyoming, shall be and the same is 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 $192,750.00 for tax year 2001.
THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK
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 17th 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