A DECISION OF THE NATRONA COUNTY )                             Docket No. 2001-202









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.


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, 2001.

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.


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 4(f).

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. 1995).

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 valuation.

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 reads:

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 Board's Order.



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.




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.


Edmund J. Schmidt, Chairman

Roberta A. Coates, Vice-Chairman

Sylvia Lee Hackl, Member


Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary