BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
BENENSON CAPITAL COMPANY FROM )
A DECISION OF THE ALBANY COUNTY ) Docket No. 2002-144
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2002 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
FINDINGS OF FACT
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DECISION AND ORDER
Jason M Tangeman, Anthony, Nicholas, Tangeman & Yates, LLC, for Benenson Capital Company, Petitioner.
James P. Schermetzler, Deputy Albany County and Prosecuting Attorney, for Deborah J. Nagel-Smith, Albany County Assessor.
This matter was considered by the State Board of Equalization (State Board), Roberta A. Coates, Chairman, Alan B. Minier, Vice-Chairman and Tom Satterfield, Board Member, on written information pursuant to a Briefing Order (Locally Assessed Property) dated September 12, 2002, and oral arguments of the parties heard by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman on April 21, 2003. Board Member Satterfield having reviewed the record and transcript of the oral argument. The appeal arises from a decision of the Albany County Board of Equalization (County Board) affirming the corrected 2002 valuation by the Albany County Assessor (Assessor) of real property and improvements owned by Benenson Capital Company and leased by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., located at 4037 Grand Ave. Laramie, Wyoming. Petitioner contends the property is overvalued based on a single indicator of value that it presented to the County Board.
The issue before the State Board is:
Was the County Board decision affirming the Assessor’s corrected taxable value of Petitioner’s property supported by substantial evidence, according to 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 decision must be filed with the State Board within thirty (30) days from entry of the decision. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, § 2.
Petitioner appealed to the County Board the Assessor’s 2002 taxable valuation of $3,909,600.00 of the real property and improvements located at 4037 Grand Ave., Laramie, Albany County, Wyoming on May 10, 2002. [County Board Record, p. 1]. In support of its claim with respect to the building on the property, Petitioners asserts that a valuation of $3.60 per square foot rental value or $2,625,000.00, reflects its fair market value as defined by the Wyoming Statutes and Department of Revenue Rules and Regulation.
For her part, the Assessor replied to the Petitioner’s evidence, and testified that Petitioner’s property was valued using the Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system.
On appeal, Petitioner states that it relies on the income approach of estimating fair market value. However, Petitioner’s professional appraiser did not offer any opinion as to the fair market value of the subject property, nor was any other evidence or testimony offered by the Petitioner as to the fair market value of the real property in question.
A review of the record demonstrates that the County Board’s order should be affirmed.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Petitioner owns real property and improvements located at 4037 Grand Avenue, Laramie, Albany County, Wyoming. [County Board Record, pp. 30-38].
2. After receiving notice that its assessment for 2002 would be $3,909,600, Petitioner filed its Petition of Appeal to the Albany County Board of Equalization, protesting its property tax assessment for the old Wal-Mart store located at 4037 Grand Avenue, Albany County, Wyoming. [County Board Record, pp. 1-3, 24-27].
3. Petitioner filed a timely request for a hearing before the County Board. [County Board Record, p. 3]. The County Board held a hearing on June 21, 2002. [County Board Record, p. 138].
4. The substance of Petitioner’s evidence consists of a sublease agreement between Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust, Sublessor and Snowy Range Academy, Inc., Sublessee, entered into by the parties on April 3, 2002. [Supplemental County Board Record, pp. 536-571 Exhibit B]. It is interesting to note Petitioner introduced the “Memorandum of Lease” between Petitioner and the primary lessee, Wal-Mart, but failed to disclose the rents Wal-Mart is paying Petitioner. [County Board Record, pp 83-93].
5. Petitioner began its protest by analysis of Comparable Rent Summary Sheets, prepared by Calvin T. Young, Wyoming State Certified Real Estate Appraiser, dated August 25, 1999. [Supplemental County Board Record, pp. 572-586 Exhibit C]. Petitioner believed the evidence of a pro forma income valuation approach calculation based upon $3.60 per square foot yielded a fair market value of $2,625,000.00 for the old Wal-Mart property.
6. However, to reach its final conclusion, Petitioner did not use the information on the Comparable Rent Summary Sheets but rather the actual figure of $3.60 from the Snowy Range Academy lease agreement. [Transcript of oral argument before the State Board of Equalization, p. 9].
7. In response to the Petitioner’s presentation to the County Board, Cheri Anderle, the Property Tax Appraiser for the Albany County Assessor’s Office provided evidence that she used the CAMA system to determine the fair market value of Petitioner’s property. [County Board Record, pp. 304-306].
8. Ms. Anderle holds a permanent certification as a Property Tax Appraiser from the Department of Revenue, [County Board Record, pp. 7, 218], and has taken several appraisal courses including one on commercial valuation. [County Board Record, p. 306-307].
9. The County Board denied Petitioner’s protest and affirmed the Assessor’s corrected valuation of Petitioner’s property. The County Board issued its decision on September 23, 2002. [County Board Record, pp. 388-391]. Petitioner appealed to the State Board by Notice of Appeal filed October 23, 2002. [State Board Record, Notice of Appeal].
10. On appeal, Petitioner contends that the County Board erred in affirming the Assessor’s valuation, under the standards found in Chapter 3, Section 9 of the Rules of the State Board of Equalization. [State Board Record, Notice of Appeal].
11. Any Discussion above, or Conclusion of Law below, that includes a finding of fact may also be considered a Finding of Fact and, therefore, is incorporated herein by this reference.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
12. Petitioner’s Notice of Appeal from the County Board’s decision was timely filed and the State Board has jurisdiction to determine this matter. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, § 2.
13. The Board’s inquiry is limited to whether the County Board’s decision affirming the Assessor’s corrected 2002 valuation of Petitioner’s property is: (a) arbitrary, capricious and 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.
14. The review by the State Board is confined to the record, oral argument and such briefs and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law as may be filed. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, § 9.
15. The Petitioner’s contentions concerning its assessment raise the question of whether or not there is substantial evidence in the record reasonably supporting the conclusions reached by the County Board.
16. All taxable property must be valued annually at fair market value. Wyo. Stat. §39-13-103(b)(ii). Further, all taxable property must be valued and assessed for taxation in the name of the owner of the property on January 1. Wyo. Stat. §39-1-103(b)(i)(A). 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. Article 15, Section 11 of the Wyoming Constitution requires all property “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." The legislature, in turn, has required the Department of Revenue (Department) 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).
18. The Department has promulgated rules prescribing the methods for valuing property. The acceptable methods include a sales comparison approach, a cost approach, an income or capitalized earnings approach, and the CAMA system. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6 (a), (b), (c), and (d).
19. The Assessor utilized the CAMA system to value Petitioner’s property. Petitioner demonstrated no error or inaccuracy in the Assessor’s use of the CAMA system.
20. An assessor’s valuation is presumed valid, accurate, and correct. This presumption survives until overturned by credible evidence. Teton Valley Ranch v. State Board of Equalization, 735 P.2d 107,113 (Wyo. 1987). A mere difference of opinion as to value is not sufficient to overcome the presumption. J. Ray McDermott & Company v. Hudson, 370 P.2d 364, 370 (Wyo. 1962). The presumption is especially valid where the Assessor valued the property according to the Department’s Rules and Regulations which provide for the use of the CAMA system in the assessment of real property. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(b), (d).
21. The Wyoming Supreme Court has recognized the validity of valuations derived from the CAMA system. Gray v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 896 P.2d 1347 (Wyo. 1995). In fact, the Court rejected the use of actual sales price for properties in favor of the value established by the CAMA system because of the equality and uniformity derived by its use. Id. at 1351.
22. In determining whether or not there is substantial evidence in the record, the State Board will not substitute its 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, 1188-1189 (Wyo.1996); Amax Coal v. State Board of Equalization, 819 P.2d 825 (Wyo. 1991); Sage Club, Inc. v. Employment Sec. Comm'n., 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, “‘[s]ubstantial evidence’ is a term of art, best described as relevant evidence that a reasonable mind can accept as adequate to support an agency’s conclusion.” Sidwell v. State Worker’s Compensation Div., 977 P.2d 60, 63 (Wyo. 1999).
23. Although Petitioner provided the County Board with information intended to support a valuation of $2,625,000.00, this information was not sufficient to overcome the Assessor’s presumptively accurate valuation of $3,909,600.00 using the CAMA System. To address each of the Petitioner’s main points: (1) The calculation of average market value per square foot does not address the results of applying CAMA, and in this instance, Petitioner presented a value for its property that incorporated the actual sublease amount from the Snowy Range Academy, Inc.; (2) the Comparable Rent Summary Sheets were not used by the Petitioner to create an average square foot calculations. Petitioners thus failed to carry their burden of demonstrating any error in the Assessor’s valuation of the Petitioner’s property. It is interesting to note Petitioner did not disclose the fee of the primary lease with Wal-Mart, but it is doubtful that such information would have mandated a different result.
24. The County Board decision affirming the Assessor’s corrected value of Petitioner’s property was supported by substantial evidence, in accordance with procedures required by law, and was neither arbitrary, capricious nor inconsistent with law.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED that the Albany County Board of Equalization Order of September 23, 2002, denying the Petitioners’ protest and affirming the 2002 assessment of Petitioner’s property located in Laramie, Albany 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 ______ day of May, 2003.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Roberta A. Coates, Chairman
Alan B. Minier, Vice-Chairman
Thomas R. Satterfield, Member
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that on the _____ day of May, 2003, I served the foregoing FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND ORDER by placing a true and correct copy thereof in the United States Mail, postage prepaid, and properly addressed to the following:
Jason M. Tangeman
Philip A. Nicholas
Anthony, Nicholas Tangeman & Yates
PO Box 928
Laramie WY 82073
Deborah J. Nagel-Smith
Albany County Assessor
Albany County Courthouse
500 Grand Ave.,
Laramie WY 82070
James P. Schermetzler
Deputy County Attorney
Albany County Attorney’s Office
525 Grand, Suite 304
Laramie WY 82070
Jana R. Fitzgerald
State Board of Equalization
P.O. Box 448
Cheyenne, WY 82003
Phone: (307) 777-6989
Fax: (307) 777-6363
cc: State Board;
Edmund J. Schmidt, Director, Department of Revenue;
Director, Ad Valorem Division, Department of Revenue;
Treasurer/Attorney/Commission -Albany County
ABA State and Local Tax Reporter