A DECISION OF THE TETON COUNTY            )         Docket No. 2003-97

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2003                  )

PROPERTY VALUATION                                 )








Edward W. Scheer, pro se, (Petitioner)


James L. Radda, Deputy County Attorney, for Suzanne Olmstead, Teton County Assessor (Assessor).





This is an appeal from a decision by the Teton County Board of Equalization (County Board). The State Board of Equalization (State Board), comprised of Roberta A. Coates, Chairman, Alan B. Minier, Vice-Chairman and Thomas R. Satterfield, Board Member, having considered the County Board hearing record, County Board decision and briefs filed pursuant to a Briefing Order (Locally Assessed Property) dated October 16, 2003. The Petitioner appealed the decision the County Board issued on August 4, 2003.





The County Board conducted a hearing on July 21, 2003. The Petitioner, Edward W. Scheer and the Assessor, Susanne Olmstead, testified at the County Board Hearing. Supporting documents were admitted into the record.


The County Board concluded in its decision that the Petitioner had not presented sufficient, credible evidence to overcome the presumption that the Assessor’s valuation was valid. The County Board upheld the Assessor’s assessment of the property.




The State Board of Equalization is required to “hear appeals from county boards of equalization.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c). A timely appeal from the County Board decision was filed with the State Board. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, §2.





When the State Board hears appeals from a county board, it acts as an intermediate level of appellate review. Laramie County Board of Equalization v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 915 P.2d 1184, 1188 (Wyo. 1996); Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 802 P.2d 856, 859 (Wyo. 1990). In its appellate capacity, the State Board treats a county board as the finder of fact. Id. In contrast, the State Board acts as the finder of fact when it hears contested cases on appeal from final decisions of the Wyoming Department of Revenue. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c). This sharp distinction in roles is reflected in the State Board Rules governing the two different types of proceedings. Compare Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 2 and Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3. Statutory language first adopted in 1995, when the Board of Equalization and the Department of Revenue were reorganized into separate entities, does not express the distinction between the State Board’s appellate and de novo capacities with the same clarity as our long-standing Rules. 1995 Wyo. Sess. Laws, Chapter 209, Section 1, Wyo. Stat. Ann. §39-1-304(a).


By Rule, the State Board’s standards for review of a county board’s decision are nearly identical to the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act standards which a district court must apply to hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings of fact, and conclusions of law. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §16-3-114(c)(ii). However, unlike a district court, the State Board will not rule on claims that a county board has acted “[c]ontrary to constitutional right, power, privilege or immunity.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. §16-1-114(c)(ii)(B). The State Board’s review is limited to a determination of whether a county board action is:


(a) Arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law;


(b) In excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations or lacking statutory right;


(c) Without observance of procedure required by law; or


(d) Unsupported by substantial evidence.


Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, § 9.


The Supreme Court in Laramie County Board of Equalization v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 915 P.2d 1184 Wyo. P. 1189 (1996), agreed that the State Board’s role is the following:


We examine the entire record to determine if there is substantial evidence to support an agency’s [county board’s] findings. If the agency’s [county board’s] decision is supported by substantial evidence, we cannot properly substitute our judgement for that of the agency [county board], and must uphold the findings on appeal. Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept in support of the conclusions of the agency. It is more than a scintilla of evidence.





The Petitioner, initially identified three issues with the County Board’s decision.


A.       The Assessor’s comparable properties were not all in the neighborhood.


B.       The decision citations used in the Conclusion Of Law were not current.


C.       The Board did not take into consideration the financial hardships to the Petitioner caused by his retirement, poor health and the effect of increasing market values.


We have organized our review of the County Board decision around these issues.





1.       The disputed property is owned by Mr. Edward W. Scheer, Petitioner. Petitioner purchased the 10 acres of land in 1968 for $35,000. The 2,039 square foot house was built in 1970. It has a small shed attached to the carport and there is a small cabin on the property. The shed, carport and cabin are not on foundations and were considered as personal property.


2.       On June 25, 2003, the County Assessor issued a tax assessment schedule to the Petitioner for assessment of Lot 2 of Scheer Subdivision (550 Green Lane) Teton County, Wyoming. The Assessor estimated the market value of the property at $738,674.00. The land was valued at $613,200 and the buildings at $125,474. [Record, Assessment Schedule, p. 24].


3.       On May 22, 2003, the Petitioner filed an official appeal of the assessment. The hearing before the Teton County Board of Equalization was set for July 21, 2003. [Record, p. 7]


4.       During the County Board hearing, the Assessor presented an appraisal prepared by Debbie LaJeuness of Teton Appraisals. The fee appraisal was completed on June 26, 2003 and used six comparable properties for the land values and six comparable properties for the building. Three of these properties were within several miles of the Scheer property. We have used these in the consideration of comparable land values.


Address of comparable

Sale Date

Sale Price

Lot Size in Acres

Cost per Acre

River Hollow

April 2003




Schofield Patent






 Wilson Prairie





 Green Lane

(Scheer property)






* Appraised value


The River Hollow property is slightly larger, has water frontage, slightly less appealing views and has less privacy than the Scheer property.


The Schofield property is west of the Scheer property and is a smaller lot. The property is in an older well-established subdivision that has good appeal. The lot is smaller but has similar type views.


The Wilson Prairie property is just north of the Scheer property. The lot is smaller and has a similar type view of the Tetons but lacks water frontage and mature trees.


[Record, Teton Appraisals, p. 12].





9.       The Wyoming Constitution, Article 15, §11, requires all property “be uniformly assessed for taxation, and the legislature shall prescribe such regulations as shall secure a just valuation of taxation of all property, real and personal.”


Early on, Justice Blume recognized a truth inherent in the area of property valuation: ‘There is no such thing as absolute value. A stone cannot be other than a stone, but one man may give a different valuation to a piece of land than another.’ Bunten v. Rock Springs Grazing Ass’n, 29 Wyo. 461, 475, 215 P. 244, 248 (1923). Accordingly, this court has consistently interpreted Wyo. Const. Art. 15, § 11 to require ‘only a rational method [of appraisal], equally applied to all property which results in essential fairness.’


Basin Electric Power Coop. v. Dept. of Revenue, 970 P.2d 841, 857 (Wyo.1998) quoting: Holly Sugar Corp. v. State Board of Equalization, 839 P.2d 959, 964 (Wyo.1992).


10.     Broken into its component parts, the constitutional standard requires: (1) a rational method; (2) equally applied to all property; and (3) essential fairness. It is the burden of one challenging an assessment to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that at least one of these elements has not been fulfilled. Basin Electric Power Coop., 970 P.2d at 852.


11.     All property must be valued annually at fair market value. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §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. Ann. §39-13-103(b)(i)(A).


12.      Fair market value is defined as:


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 reasonably time.


Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-101(a)(vi).


13.     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. Ann. §39-13-103(b)(ii), and required assessors to “[f]aithfully and diligently follow and apply” those rules for the appraisal and assessment of all taxable property. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §18-3-204(a)(ix).


14.     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 earning approach, and the CAMA system. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6 (a), (b), (c), and (d).


15.     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 & Co. 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, rules 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). “The burden is on the Taxpayer to establish any overvaluation.” Hillard v. Big Horn Coal Co., 549 p.2d 294 (Wyo. 1976).


16.     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 Wyoming Supreme 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.


17.     Each of the issues raised by the Assessor turns on the question of whether or not there is substantial evidence in the record that reasonably supports the County Board decision. 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; Holly Sugar Corp. v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 839 P.2d 959 (Wyo. 1992); Sage Club, Inc. 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. 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 support for an agency’s conclusion. Sidwell v. State Workers’ Compensation Div., 977 P.2d 60, 63 (Wyo. 1999).


18.     The value of personal property for the purpose of taxation should be estimated according to the fair actual cash market value, or the price that the property would sell for in the usual course of business and the assessor should take into consideration all factors which relate to value. J. Ray McDermott & Co. V. Hudson, 370 P.2d 364 368 (Wyo. 1962).


A.      The Assessor’s comparable properties were not all in the neighborhood.


19.     The appraisal that the Assessor used had six comparable properties. Three of these properties were within two miles of the Petitioner’s property. Comparable No. 1 is approximately 10 miles north, Comparable No. 3 is approximately 5 miles east and Comparable No. 5 is approximately 8 miles south. We have only considered the three comparable properties that are within two miles of the Petitioner’s property. The Assessor correctly applied the properties for the comparison approach. The Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the values were incorrect, that better comparables should have been used or that the location of the other properties materially affected the comparables.


20.     The record shows that the Assessor complied with all requirements of the state law in determining the value for the Petitioner’s property by using the sales comparison approach to value the property as prescribed in Chapter 9 of the rules and regulations promulgated by the Wyoming Department of Revenue. The Taxpayer presented no evidence that the Assessor had incorrectly applied the sales used for comparison approach.


B.      The decision citations used in the Conclusion of Law were not Acceptable.


21.     Petitioner’s second contention is that “Conclusions of Law, B” of the County Board’s decision lists cases that “. . . are old and . . . not pertinent to my plight.” No mention is made concerning findings to the contrary. That section of the County Board decision states:


In a proceeding of this nature, the burden of proof is on the party asserting an improper valuation. Weaver v. State Board of Equalization, 511 P.2d97(Wyo 1973); Scott Realty Company v. state Board of Equalization, 395 P,2d 289 (Wyo 1973); Bunton v. Rock Springs Grazing Association, 215 P 2244 (Wyo 1923); Teton Valley Ranch v State Board of Equalization, 735 P 2d 107 (Wyo 1987)


The cases cited by the County Board are the precedent, or “. . . decided case[s] that furnish a basis for determining later cases involving similar facts or issues.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1195 (7th ed. 1999). They reflect the ultimate burden of persuasion born by any taxpayer challenging an assessor’s valuation decision. Following these precedents further the evenhanded, predictable and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on administrative decisions, and contribute to the actual and perceived integrity of the administrative process. Borns v Voss, 2003 WY 74 ¶26, 70 P.3d 262 (2003). Absent a showing that a change is necessary to vindicate plain, obvious principles of law and remedy continued injustice, we conclude the precedent cited by the County Board is correct.


C.      The County Board did not take into consideration the financial hardships caused by retirement, poor health and increasing market values.


22.     Petitioner alleges that his health, his financial hardships and the effect of the increasing market value, have on his finances should have encouraged the County Board to reduce his valuation and thereby his property taxes. To reduce value because of circumstances of a taxpayer is a policy determination. It is improper for the County Board to set tax policy. [Record, Trans. pp.10-11]. Wyo. Stat. Ann.§ 39-13-102(d). There are various programs available to the Petitioner for tax relief if he qualifies. The Assessor patiently explained those programs to the Petitioner during the County Board hearing. [Record, Trans. pp. 10-11].


23.     The County Board correctly supported the Assessor’s comparable sales, which were offered in support of the valuation. The sales relied upon by the Assessor were of properties comparable in size and location to the Petitioner’s property. The Assessor met her burden of explaining the value determined for the Petitioner’s property. Gray v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 896 P.2d 1347 (Wyo. 1995).

24.     Based on the record before us, we conclude that substantial evidence was not presented at the hearing to reject the decision of the Assessor. We likewise conclude the Assessor supported the argument in favor of her valuation.


25.     The decision of the County Board affirming the Assessor’s valuation of the Petitioner’s property was supported by substantial evidence, was in accordance with procedures required by law, and was neither arbitrary, capricious nor inconsistent with the law.




          IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED that the decision of the Teton County Board of Equalization Order affirming the Assessor’s 2003 assessed valuation of $738,674.00 of the Petitioner’s property, located at 550 Green Lane, Teton County, Wyoming shall be and the same is affirmed.


Pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. §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 at the appropriate district court by filing a petition for review within 30 days of the date of this decision.


          Dated this 26th day of April, 2004



                                                                           STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION





                                                                           Roberta A. Coates, Chairman





                                                                           Alan B. Minier, Vice-Chairman





     Thomas R. Satterfield



Wendy. J. Soto, Executive Secretary