BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
STEVEN AND JUNG JA MALANDRIS FROM )
A DECISION OF THE LARAMIE COUNTY ) Docket No. 2002-88
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2002 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
FINDINGS OF FACT
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
DECISION AND ORDER
Steven Malandris, appearing on behalf of Jung Ja Malandris and himself, pro se.
Mark T. Voss, Deputy Laramie County Attorney, appearing for the Laramie County Assessor.
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 September 26, 2002. The appeal arises from a decision of the Laramie County Board of Equalization (County Board). Petitioners contend the decision of the County Board was in error because it upheld a value in excess of the fair market value of their property. On appeal, the State Board must consider the following issue:
Was the County Board decision upholding the value of the property as assigned by the assessor 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.
Petitioners appealed the Assessor’s 2002 valuation of their property because:
1) They believed the Assessor had not increased the value of a neighboring property as much as theirs;
2) Their insurance agent and various Realtors disagreed with the value as set by the Assessor; and
3) Their house is not the same quality of the other homes in the neighborhood.
The Assessor testified at the County Board hearing that she valued Petitioners’ property in accordance with the Wyoming statutes and the rules of the Department of Revenue. She further testified that she had verified the characteristics of the property used for the valuation and used the Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal System (CAMA) along with a “market” adjustment to arrive at fair market value. The County Board entered an order affirming the value as set by the Assessor.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The property in dispute is a house and land located at 800 Oakhurst Drive, Cheyenne, Laramie County, Wyoming. The house is a two story, single family residence with a two car attached garage and two and one half baths. The house was built in 1986 and is 1900 square feet on a 10,200 square foot lot. [County Board Record p. 72].
2. The property was purchased in September 1987. Since the purchase, the Petitioners have not invested in the house other than once painting the outside of the home. Petitioners do not think their house is like others in the neighborhood because their home does not have central air conditioning, a water softener, or Schroll cabinets. [Transcript of County Board Hearing pp. 15-16].
3. The assessment values the property at $186,529.00 and the Petitioners believe their property to be valued between $163,000 and $168,000. [Transcript of County Board Hearing pp. 15-16, 28].
4. Petitioners contacted an insurance agent to increase the insurance coverage based on the value of the property as set by the assessor. The agent refused. Petitioners contacted unidentified realtors who estimated the value of the property to be between $163,000 and $168,000. Petitioners failed to introduce any independent evidence of value through testimony or written estimates of value. Petitioners could have had the realtors appear at the hearing to give their opinion of value. Petitioners could have obtained an appraisal of the property. At the very least Petitioners could have allowed the Assessor to view the interior of the property to determine if any adjustments need to be made to the property characteristics. [Transcript of County Board Hearing p. 15-16, 28-29].
5. The Assessor’s office viewed the outside of the property. An Assessment Notice was sent on March 25, 2002, valuing the property at $182,815 and then after reviewing 2002 sales information concluded the value to be $186,529.00. The Assessor and Petitioners verified the characteristics of the property during a conference in the Assessor’s office on April 2, 2002. The Assessor requested to view the inside of the home. Petitioners declined the visit. [Transcript of County Board Hearing pp. 28-29, 72].
6. The characteristic information was keyed into the CAMA system as required by the Department of Revenue Rules. The CAMA system calculated the value from the characteristics using the Replacement Cost New Less Depreciation (RCNLD) method. This information composed the “base” value of all the property. [Transcript of County Board Hearing, p. 41].
7. All property in the area is given a “base” value as determined by the historical cost less depreciation, HCLD method. This “base” information includes any adjustment for the quality of construction or components of a property. [Transcript of County Board Hearing, p. 41].
8. The Assessor then compared the “base” value of properties that sold in the area with the sales price. From this comparison the Assessor concluded the “base” value was lower than the fair market value and adjusted the “base” of all the properties in the neighborhood by a “market” adjustment of thirty-five percent (35%). All sales in the area are listed and mapped as exhibits. [Transcript of County Board Hearing pp. 41, 70, 73].
9. Petitioners filed an “Official Appeal of Assessment” on April 23, 2002. [County Board Record p. 61].
10. The County Board held a hearing on June 20, 2002. The County Board entered an Order on July 31, 2002, affirming the value as set by the Assessor. [County Board Record, pp. 84-92].
11. Petitioners timely filed their Notice of Appeal with the State Board on August 21, 2002.
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.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
13. Petitioners’ 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, Wyoming Statute Section 39-11-101, provides:
(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).
18. 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 prescribed 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 CAMA system and thus the cost approach and the sales comparison approach.
19. 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 Petitioners to demonstrate the property was overvalued.
20. Petitioners failed to present any evidence to dispute the Assessor’s value other than uncorroborated oral testimony about unknown realtors’ and insurance agents’ opinions. There was no evidence as to how the third parties derived their valuation decisions. Oral testimony, unsupported by adequate documentary evidence, has been deemed insufficient to refute an Assessor’s value. In the Matter of the Appeal of Crook County Assessor from a Decision of the Crook County Board of Equalization, 2002 WL 233552 (Wyo. St. Bd. Eq. 2001-143). Petitioners may introduce an appraisal or testimony from an expert to refute the value as set by the Assessor in the future but they have not done so in this case.
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 presumption that an assessor’s valuation is valid, accurate, and correct. J. Ray McDermott & Company v. Hudson, 370 P.2d 364, 370 (Wyo. 1962). The Assessor’s valuation is presumed valid if the CAMA system is used. The Wyoming Supreme Court recognized the validity of the CAMA system because it results in uniformity of assessment. Gray v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 896 P.2d 1347 (Wyo. 1995).
22. The Assessor demonstrated the characteristics of the house had been adjusted for some of the factors Petitioners felt were different from neighboring property. Petitioners testified the assessed value of the neighboring property was not raised by the same percentage as their property but there was no showing that fair market value had not been determined for both properties. Petitioners assert that the interior of their property is in poor condition. Unfortunately, Petitioners’ will not grant the Assessor access to confirm the truth of these statements thus denying the Assessor the possibility of further lowering the appraised value.
THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED:
A. The decision of the Laramie County Board of Equalization affirming the 2002 determination of fair market value of $186,259.00 for Petitioners’ property located at 800 Oakhurst, Cheyenne, Laramie County Wyoming, shall be and the same 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 3rd day of January, 2003.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Edmund J. Schmidt, Chairman
Roberta A. Coates, Vice-Chairman
Sylvia Lee Hackl, Member
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary