BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
LOWES HIW, INC. FROM )
A DECISION OF THE LARAMIE COUNTY ) Docket No. 2005-115
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2005 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
DECISION AND ORDER
Scott W. Meier and Mary A. Throne, Hickey & Evans, LLP, on behalf of Lowes HIW, Inc., (Petitioner or Taxpayer).
Peter H. Froelicher, Laramie County Attorney, on behalf of Brenda Arnold, Laramie County Assessor (Respondent or Assessor).
This is an appeal from a decision of the Laramie County Board of Equalization (County Board). The State Board of Equalization (State Board), comprised of Alan B. Minier, Chairman, Thomas R. Satterfield, Vice-Chairman, and Thomas D. Roberts, Board Member, considered the oral argument of the parties and their respective briefs, as well as the hearing record and decision of the County Board.
Petitioner’s Notice of Appeal was filed with the State Board effective November 30, 2005. Petitioner and the Assessor filed briefs as allowed by the State Board’s Briefing Order issued January 20, 2006. The Board heard oral argument on April 18, 2006.
Petitioner challenges the County Board decision affirming the Assessor’s 2005 fair market valuation of its property. Petitioner’s Notice of Appeal asserts:
(a) The County Assessor failed to fulfill her regulatory responsibility to evaluate the most appropriate methodology and to reconcile other indications of value in assessing Lowe’s property; and
(b) The approval of the CAMA methodology is not supported by substantial evidence.
We evaluate the Petitioner’s claims against our standard of review, which is whether the ruling of the County Board was arbitrary, capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence, and/or contrary to law. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, § 9. We affirm the decision of the County Board.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COUNTY BOARD
The County Board conducted a hearing on August 25, 2005. Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order were entered by the County Board on November 1, 2005, affirming the Assessor’s 2005 fair market value for Petitioner’s property in the sum of $45,740,273.
The State Board 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.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 the 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 Department of Revenue (Department). 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 State Board and the Department 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, § 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 the 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.
Since the State Board Rules are patterned on the judicial review provision of the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act, we look to precedent under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114(c) for guidance. For example, we must apply this substantial evidence standard:
“Our task is to examine the entire record to determine if substantial evidence exists to support the [County Board’s] findings. We will not substitute our judgment for that of the [County Board] if [its] decision is supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept in support of the agency’s conclusions.”
Clark v. State ex rel. Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division, 934 P.2d 1269, 1272 (Wyo. 1997). See also, Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 12, 132 P.3d 801, 806 (Wyo. 2006).
Petitioner’s opening brief recites this statement of issues:
I. Whether the Laramie County Board of Equalization’s (County Board’s) decision to uphold the Laramie County Assessor’s (County Assessor’s) valuation methodology even though she considered no other methodology and failed to reconcile other indications of value with her assessment as required by Chapter 9 of the Department of Revenue Regulations (Department Regulations) was arbitrary and capricious and inconsistent with the law.
II. Whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the County Board’s approval of the Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) methodology for the 2005 Lowe’s assessment.
We conclude the decision of the County Board was neither unlawful, arbitrary, nor capricious. We further conclude there was substantial evidence in the record supporting the Assessor’s valuation.
FACTS PRESENTED TO THE COUNTY BOARD
1. Petitioner is a Delaware corporation and owns a distribution warehouse in Laramie County at 2723 Christensen Parkway, Cheyenne, Wyoming. The warehouse was completed in 2002. The main building has 1,119,750 square feet and the guardhouse has 1152 square feet. The complex is located on 167 acres. [Exhibit 6, County Board Record, pp. 346-354; County Board Findings, ¶ 3].
2. The Assessor sent Petitioner a Notice of Assessment for the 2005 tax year on March 16, 2005. The Notice indicated a 2005 fair market value of $46,881,497. Petitioner filed an Official Appeal of Assessment with the County Assessor on April 13, 2005. The Assessor and her staff viewed the property on May 4, 2005. The Assessor, on June 3, 2005, discussed her assessment with Chris Brown, an MAI certified appraiser hired by Petitioner. As a result of these discussions, the Assessor corrected an error in the story height of the building, 33 feet rather than 35 feet, and issued a supplemental assessment on July 29, 2005, indicating a 2005 fair market value for land and improvements of $45,740,273. [County Board Record, pp. 112-113; County Board Findings, ¶ ¶ 2, 5, 6; Exhibit 10].
3. The County Board held a hearing on Petitioner’s appeal on August 25, 2005. [County Board Record, p. 1].
4. The various contracts for construction of the warehouse in question in 2002, totaled $34,461,195. The individual contracts were: architect and engineers fees, $242,000; structural steel, $4,725,038; walls panels, $2,582,987; and construction completion, $26,911,170. [County Board Findings, ¶ 4; County Board Record, pp. 21, 24-26; Exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, County Board Record, pp. 284 - 326].
5. The concrete aprons around the warehouse and the skylights in the warehouse were repaired after construction at a total approximate cost of $500,000 to $1million. [County Board Record, pp. 37-38].
6. The Assessor testified she had been Laramie County Assessor since 1995, and a certified Wyoming property tax appraiser since 1989. She was also accredited by the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO). She had completed over 1100 hours of course work in appraisal and assessment administration. She considered herself subject to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Mass Appraisal Standard Number 6. [County Board Record pp. 39-40].
7. The Assessor testified Wyoming statutes require the Department to prescribe the system and methodology to be used by county assessors to appraise local assessed property. The Department allows three approaches to value property - costs - sales comparison, and income - plus use of the CAMA system. [County Board Record pp. 40-41].
8. The Assessor stated she considers the nature of and information available for any given property. She then exercises her appraisal judgement to determine which valuation method is most appropriate for the property. [County Board Record pp. 41-42].
9. The Assessor noted the sales approach requires a statistically valid number of sales of property similar to the property being valued. Because mass appraisal is based on statistical analysis, the number of sales can be a limitation. [County Board Record p. 44].
10. The Assessor related that use of sales from other counties and other states can be problematic. She noted in her experience it is difficult to get accurate information on what the sales price included, etc. She stated she is seldom able to obtain valid commercial sales information as typically land is purchased and a building constructed rather than the sale of land and building. She noted that even if there is a sale of land and existing building, the purchaser almost always immediately invests in remodeling which makes comparing commercial sales difficult. [County Board Record pp. 44-47].
11. The Assessor related she could not identify any appropriate sales in Laramie County of comparable property to value the property in question. She thus concluded the best approach to value the property at issue was a cost approach. [County Board Record p. 47].
12. The Assessor stated she would consider a well-supported sales approach developed by a qualified appraiser, although she may not agree with the value derived. [County Board Record p. 47].
13. The Assessor stated her opinion the CAMA system she utilized to value the property at issue incorporates a cost approach which is the most appropriate approach on fairly new property. [County Board Record p. 48].
14. The Assessor stated she might consider documented actual costs as relevant but would not necessarily utilize them through a trended original cost approach to value the property for basically two reasons. First, the original costs must be 100% accurate; and second, if actual costs are used for one property, then such costs must be used for all similar properties. She stated in her professional judgement, failure to use a trended original cost approach for all properties would undermine uniformity. She asserted the use of the cost approach through the CAMA system helps ensure uniformity in determining values. [County Board Record pp. 49-50].
15. The Assessor stated her belief that when actual costs are used on one building, then actual costs must be used on all buildings in the same classification in order to ensure uniformity of assessment. [County Board Record p. 240].
16. The Assessor noted the key to the mass appraisal standard under USPAP Standard Number 6 (supra, ¶ 6) is the standardization of data collection and uniform application of the same appraisal methodology to all properties. [County Board Record p. 52].
17. The Assessor related that the Department provided and maintained the CAMA system for 2005, and was responsible for assuring the system did the appropriate calculations. It was her duty as assessor to collect the data or property characteristic information, which was keyed into the CAMA system. [County Board Record pp. 53-54, 110].
18. The Assessor, following an enquiry by counsel for Petitioner, investigated the internal codes used by the CAMA system to value the warehouse using the cost approach. [County Board Record p. 54].
19. The Assessor stated the CAMA system utilized by her office to value property in Laramie County in 2005 used a cost approach based on annual Wyoming cost values provided by the Boeckh Company. The system then determined a cost value which was adjusted based on the perimeter area (perimeter area adjustment) of the building. The system determined an area perimeter ratio which was then applied to the value of the foundation wall, exterior wall, and roof. This same methodology was used for all structures in Laramie County classified as warehouses. A smaller building as a result will likely cost more per-square foot than a larger building. The CAMA system used by Laramie County Assessor made substantial value adjustments based on the size of the warehouse at issue. [County Board Findings, ¶¶ 9, 10; County Board Record pp. 57-60, 75-78, 91-95, 107-108].
20. The property at issue is classified by the Assessor as a large warehouse. She noted there were no other buildings of similar size in Laramie County although other warehouses are built with the same materials. In the Assessor’s view, the warehouse did not pose any greater challenge to value than other types of properties in Laramie County based on the adjustments for size. The characteristics of the warehouse may be unique, however those unique characteristics were considered in the process of valuing the building. [County Board Findings, ¶ 10; County Board Record pp. 60-62, 83].
21. The Assessor testified she considered all appraisal methods available to her. She did not chose the sales comparison method due to a lack of information on valid, open market sales of similar properties during calendar year 2004 in Laramie County. She did not look for sales state-wide nor outside the state of Wyoming. [County Board Findings, ¶ 11; County Board Record pp. 62-63].
22. The Assessor, based on her analysis and using the CAMA system as identified in Assessor’s Exhibit A, established a 2005 fair and uniform market value for the Lowe’s warehouse (excluding land) at $44,340,143. This value takes into consideration the unique characteristics of the warehouse as well as the adjustment for the story height. [County Board Findings, ¶ 13; County Board Record pp. 64-69, 120].
23. The Assessor testified the CAMA system determines a proposed value using characteristics information gathered by the field appraisers from her office in conjunction with general values for construction materials and location modifiers from the Boeckh cost system, not the Marshal & Swift cost system. [County Board Record pp. 67-68].
24. The Assessor, for informational purposes only, completed a Marshall & Swift appraisal for the warehouse since Petitioner had historically asked it be valued as a mega distribution center or mega warehouse classification in Marshall & Swift. If the warehouse were valued using a Marshall & Swift cost-basis appraisal for the 2005 assessment year, its value would increase by $1,475,565 over the Boeckh cost-basis value the Assessor derived. [County Board Record pp. 68, 113-116].7
25. The Assessor stated that the mistakes in her valuation alleged by Petitioner’s appraiser, Chris Brown, except for the building story height which was corrected, appear to be based on a mistaken assumption she relied upon the Marshall & Swift informational appraisal in determining the actual 2005 fair market value. [County Board Record pp. 116-119].
26. Depreciation of the warehouse was calculated by the CAMA system based on the effective age (three years) and condition (good) of the building. [County Board Record pp. 71-73, 96-99].
27. The Assessor did not believe there was any functional or economic obsolescence attributable to the warehouse. [County Board Record pp. 99-101].
28. The Assessor stated she might consider sales from outside the state of Wyoming. Such sales, however, can not be keyed into the CAMA system as all sales information entered into the system must be tied to an identifying parcel of land in Laramie County. [County Board Record p. 103].
29. The Assessor noted the evidence submitted by Petitioner in its pre-hearing packet was the same material submitted in a 2003 appeal with the addition of an appraisal by Chris Brown. [County Board Record p. 106].
30. The Assessor testified she can not use actual costs for a particular building in the CAMA system. [County Board Record pp. 106-107].
31. The Assessor stated that she considered each of the three different valuation methods and the CAMA system as allowed by the Department in appraising the warehouse. She also considered the information supplied by Petitioner through the appraisal by Chris Brown. She concluded, in her professional judgement, the cost approach in the CAMA system was the best method. [County Board Findings, ¶ 11; County Board Record pp. 111-112, 121, 236-238].
32. Chris Brown testified on behalf of Petitioner as an expert on fee appraisal. Brown, utilizing a sales comparison approach and a cost approach, performed a fee appraisal of the property at issue with an effective date of January 1, 2005, indicating in his opinion a fair market value for land and improvements of $39,800,000. [County Board Findings, ¶¶ 6, 7; County Board Record pp. 130-131; Exhibit 6, County Board Record pp. 327-476].
33. Brown testified the cost approach he utilized in his fee appraisal relied on the cost to build the warehouse as reflected in the four contracts (architect and engineering, structural steel, wall panels, and construction) except for the truck scale which was an estimated cost based on Marshall & Swift. He concluded the cost to be $36 per square foot. He then considered, but did not add, entrepreneurial profit. He calculated depreciation to arrive at an estimated cost approach value for land and improvements of $39,340,000. [County Board Findings, ¶ 7; County Board Record pp. 131-133, 150, 155-156].
34. Brown acknowledged he did not attempt to verify the actual costs provided to him by Petitioner, other than to review the four contracts it provided. [County Board Record p. 155].
35. The sales comparison approach used by Brown did not include any sales in Laramie County. He utilized actual sales of property on the dates noted in Colorado Springs, Colorado - March, 2000; Aurora, Colorado - January, 2004; Denver, Colorado - October, 2001; Denver, Colorado - January, 2001; Denver, Colorado - October, 2001; and Aurora, Colorado - August, 2004. Brown also utilized properties in Indianola, Mississippi, and Spanish Fork, Utah, which were listed for sale but had not sold. Finally, Brown utilized the Quark building in Cheyenne as a “listing” although the description in his appraisal indicates the property had not been formally listed for sale. [County Board Findings, ¶ 7; County Board Record pp. 135-136, 156-157; Exhibit 6, pp. 58-59, County Board Record pp. 385, 431].
36. Brown testified he adjusted the Colorado sales downward 25 % based on his prior appraisal of, and the “listing” price for, the Quark building in Cheyenne. Brown admitted he had no empirical data to support his assertion the market for a million-square-foot building in Cheyenne is 25% less than the market in Denver. The 25% reduction was based on his appraisal judgment. [County Board Findings, ¶ 7, County Board Record pp. 157-161].
37. For the actual sales used in his sales comparison approach, it is not clear from Brown’s testimony if an adjustment was made for the time difference between the dates of sale and January 1, 2005. The adjustment worksheet in his appraisal does not appear to include such a time difference adjustment. [County Board Record p. 136; Exhibit 6, p. 66, County Board Record p. 392].
38. Brown testified he arrived at an estimated depreciation of 6% for the warehouse in question by considering what he termed actual depreciation extracted out of the market for other properties sold in Cheyenne. His depreciation calculation considered what a property could be built for versus what it sold for. The depreciation study he relied upon only indicates it was derived from “selected sales of commercial and industrial properties in Cheyenne.” There is no indication of the size of any of the selected properties as a point of comparison with the subject warehouse, although Brown admitted none were million-square-foot buildings. [County Board Record pp. 134-135, 169; Exhibit 6, p. 56, County Board Record p. 382].
39. The estimated 6% depreciation calculated by Brown also appeared to be based in part on consideration of a property (Quark) which had not been sold, nor even formally listed for sale at the time of Brown’s appraisal. [Exhibit 6, p. 55, County Board Record pp. 381, 431].
40. Brown acknowledged it is very common, working with commercial real estate, to have differences of opinions as to value. [County Board Record p. 140].
41. Brown also acknowledged he is not an expert on the CAMA system. He is not a mass appraiser, and has no training on the State CAMA system. [County Board Record pp. 141, 144].
42. Brown further acknowledged both he and the Assessor had appraised the property at issue based on their respective professional judgments with a resulting difference of opinion between two professional appraisers. [County Board Record pp. 144-145].
43. Steve Letman, a real estate appraiser and tax consultant, testified on behalf of Petitioner. He had exposure to computer assisted mass appraisal systems in other states. He had never testified in Wyoming; had not read the Wyoming statutes on how property is valued for taxation; had not reviewed the Department Rules which govern the process and methods to value property for taxation; had no experience with the Wyoming CAMA system; had not visited with the Department about the system; had not visited with the Assessor nor anyone in her office; and had not performed an appraisal for taxation purposes in Wyoming. [County Board Findings, ¶ 8; County Board Record pp. 174, 176, 180, 182-184; 212].
44. Letman reviewed the appeal documentation prepared by the Assessor. Although he stated he is familiar with CAMA systems similar to the Wyoming system, he admitted Wyoming was the first state he had encountered which used the Boeckh system, and was not familiar enough with the Boeckh system to know how it works. [County Board Findings, ¶ 8; County Board Record pp. 185-188].
45. Letman asserted no CAMA system is adequate to value a million-square-foot facility. His opinion is based on his experience in other jurisdictions in which he was involved in tax appeals. In those jurisdictions, the assessor either had an in-house appraiser, or hired an outside appraiser to “come up with a true market value.” [County Board Record pp. 188-191].
46. On the issue of uniformity, Letman stated market value is more important than uniformity, and the ultimate goal when there is an appeal is to obtain market value. According to Letman,“[i]f there are other similar properties, that will end up being ununiformly valued because of an appeal, that’s their – the taxpayer’s responsibility for not appealing their property as well”. [County Board Record p. 193].
47. Letman believed, based on the testimony he heard during the hearing and the Assessor’s depreciation chart, the Wyoming CAMA system considered only physical depreciation. He believed it did not consider functional or external obsolescence. [County Board Record pp. 198-199].
48. The Assessor testified she considered not only physical depreciation through the CAMA system, but functional and external (economic) obsolescence as well in valuing the warehouse. She determined neither of these forms of depreciation affected the Lowe’s warehouse. [County Board Findings, ¶ 12; County Board Record pp. 231-234].
49. Letman agreed the cost approach is the typical methodology for appraising commercial buildings. [County Board Record pp. 200-201].
50. Letman had no opinion as to the value of the property at issue. [County Board Findings, ¶ 8; County Board Record p. 213].
51. The County Board issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order on November 1, 2005, affirming the Assessor’s fair market value for land and improvements of $45,740,273. [County Board Record pp. 546-557].
DISCUSSION OF ISSUES AND APPLICABLE LAW
52. Petitioner’s Notice of Appeal to the State Board was timely filed. The State Board has jurisdiction to hear and determine all issues properly raised pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-109(b)(ii).
53. The Department is required to confer with, advise and give necessary instructions and directions to the county assessors as to their duties, and to promulgate rules and regulations necessary for the enforcement of all tax measures. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102(c)(xvi) and (xix). In particular, the Department “shall 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).
54. An assessor is required to annually value property within the assessor’s county for tax purposes at its fair market value. In completing this task, an assessor is required to “[f]aithfully and diligently follow and apply the orders, procedures and formulae of the Department of Revenue or orders of the State Board of Equalization for the appraisal and assessment of all taxable property.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 18-3-204(a)(ix).
55. 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.”
56. “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). See also, Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 18, 132 P.3d 801, 807-808 (Wyo. 2006).
57. 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.
58. 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).
59. Fair market value is defined as:
[T]he amount in cash, or terms reasonable 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. Ann. § 39-11-101(a)(vi).
60. The Department has promulgated rules prescribing the methods for valuing property. The acceptable methods include a sales comparison approach, a cost approach, and an income or capitalized earning approach, as well as use of a CAMA system. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(a), (b), (c), and (d).
61. The Department also prescribes how the various valuation methods are to be evaluated and utilized by an assessor:
Section 6. Appraisal Methods. The appraisal techniques which may be used by the County Assessor or the Ad Valorem Tax Division under written agreement with a county include the approaches described in this section. Each approach used shall be an appropriate method for the type of property being valued; that is, the property shall fit the assumptions inherent in the appraisal method in order to calculate or estimate the fair value of the property. Each approach used shall also consider the nature of the property or industry, and the regulatory and economic environment within which the property operates.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6.
Section 7. Reconciliation. The appraiser shall weigh the relative significance, applicability and appropriateness of the indications of value derived from the approaches to value or methods outlined above, and will place the most weight and reliance on the value indicator which, in his professional judgment, best approximates the value of the subject property. The appraiser shall evaluate all alternative conclusions and reconcile the value indicators to arrive at a final estimate of value. For market value, the final estimate is that value which most nearly represents what the typical, informed, rational purchaser would pay for the subject property and a rational seller would accept if it were available for sale on the open market as of the date of the appraisal, given all the data utilized by appraisers in their analyses.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 7.
62. An assessor’s valuation is presumed valid, accurate, and correct. This presumption survives until overturned by credible evidence. Britt v. Fremont County Assessor, 2006 WY 10, ¶ 23, 126 P.3d 117, 125 (Wyo. 2006); Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 13, 132 P.3d 801, 806 (Wyo. 2006); 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); Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶¶ 13, 48, 132 P.3d 801, 806, 816 (Wyo. 2006). 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). “The burden is on the taxpayer to establish any overevaluation.” Hillard v. Big Horn Coal Co., 549 P.2d 293, 294 (Wyo. 1976).
63. 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), Britt v. Fremont County Assessor, 2006 WY 10, ¶ 17, 126 P.3d 117, 123 (Wyo. 2006). 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 which result from its use. Gray, supra, at 1351.
64. Petitioner, in an attempt to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s 2005 value, presented the testimony of Chris Brown and Steve Letman. The County Board had ample reason to find that neither the individual testimony, nor their testimony combined, was sufficiently credible to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s valuation supra, ¶ 62.
65. Brown completed a fee appraisal of the property at issue with an effective date of January 1, 2005, the statutory assessment date for local assessed property. Brown’s appraisal utilized a trended cost approach as well as a sales comparison approach. Neither methodology supports overturning the presumption in favor of the Assessor value derived through use of the CAMA system. Supra, ¶ 62; Infra, ¶¶ 104, 105.
66. The cost approach utilized by Brown started with the contract costs, as supplied to him by Petitioner, for construction in 2002, excluding the land costs. Brown then added an estimated cost of $65,000 for a truck scale which was not included in any of the four contracts. These costs totaled $34,526,195. Brown trended this cost total by a factor of 1.17 based on a cost multiplier from the Marshall Valuation Service for valuing a building on January 1, 2005, that was built in 2002. The trended cost, “actual cost brought current” as stated by Brown, was thus $40,395,648. [Exhibit 6, County Board Record p. 373]; supra, ¶ 33.
67. Brown then compared the trended cost to the cost figures he had been provided by Petitioner for regional distribution centers in Poinciana, Florida, and Plainfield, Connecticut. Based on a comparison of the cost figures for the three properties, the property at issue and the properties in Florida and Connecticut, Brown concluded an estimated cost new for the warehouse should be $40,340,000. [Exhibit 6, County Board Record pp. 373-378].
68. Brown’s appraisal also considered entrepreneurial profit and depreciation. He concluded the property at issue was not built in anticipation of being resold for a profit, and most owners, if the property were sold, would expect to sell it for less than the depreciated cost. He thus concluded not to include any entrepreneurial profit in his estimated value using the cost approach. [Exhibit 6, County Board Record p.379].
69. Brown, in his appraisal, attributed 6% depreciation for the warehouse in question. This figure, however, relied on “selected sales” of property in Cheyenne with no indication as to size relative to the warehouse at issue other than the fact that none are million-square-foot buildings. The 6% figure is also based in part on the Quark property which has not been sold. Brown did not include any deduction for external obsolescence in the cost approach. [Exhibit 6, County Board Record pp. 381-382]; supra, ¶¶ 38, 39.
70. Brown’s cost approach depreciated improvement value for the warehouse was $37,920,000. [Exhibit 6, County Board Record p. 383]
71. The cost approach value derived by Brown does not equate to a cost approach value as determined by the approved CAMA system nor as contemplated by the Department Rules on the cost approach method. Brown’s cost approach value understates the building value for tax purposes in light of the fact his calculations utilized contract costs to Petitioner which was, in effect, acting as it own general contractor. The direct costs to Petitioner as reflected by the four contracts for construction of the warehouse, when it acts as its own general contractor, would be less than if the warehouse was constructed for Petitioner by a single general contractor who purchased all materials and supplies and provided all labor.
72. The true cost-derived fair market value for taxation purposes is not what contract costs this Petitioner incurred to build the warehouse in question. The true cost value is what this Petitioner would charge a disinterested party to build exactly the same building. Petitioner would surely include in its price an element of profit as well as sufficient revenue to cover its indirect costs. It is this element of profit and indirect costs which Brown does not consider in deriving a cost approach value. The CAMA system by design is intended to calculate cost from the point of view of a contractor constructing a building for a disinterested party, not constructing one for itself. The Department Rules authorizing the cost approach require inclusion of indirect costs:
(b.) The Cost Approach.
* * *
(v.) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
* * *
(B.) "Cost" consists of all components of expense incurred in the building or manufacture of real and personal property.
(1.) "Direct costs" include, but are not limited to, materials, labor, supervision,
equipment rentals, installation of components, and utilities.
(2.)"Indirect costs" include, but are not limited to, architecture and engineering, building permits, title and legal expenses, insurance, interest and fees on construction loans, taxes incurred during construction, advertising and sales expenses, and reasonable overhead and profit.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(b)(v)(B)(II).
73. Petitioner for the warehouse in question had separate and distinct contracts for architectural services, for all structural steel, and for the concrete wall panels. It then hired a contractor who provided the remaining supplies and materials and utilized the steel and wall panels to erect the building. Supra, ¶ 4.
74. Brown’s cost approach fails to consider the fact that Petitioner, by acting as its own general contractor, has eliminated as a cost an amount necessary to cover profit and indirect costs which is otherwise inherent in the fair market value of similar buildings valued for purposes of taxation. Petitioner, by acting as its own general contractor, does not pay a third party for this profit and indirect cost expense which a contractor would include when it constructs a building for a third party. Lowes incurred this cost internally, but the contract focus ignores what Lowes incurred.
75. Brown compared his cost approach value for Petitioner’s property with two other distribution centers owned by Petitioner, one in Florida, the other in Connecticut. [Exhibit 6, County Board Record, pp. 374-375]. These properties also had separate contracts for the structural steel and appear once again to have been built by Petitioner acting as its own general contractor. The costs for these other centers thus arguably also lack a factor to cover all indirect costs and profit.
76. The cost approach value derived by Brown was not sufficient to call into question the Assessor’s CAMA value.
77. The sales comparison approach used by Brown also contained elements which negate its sufficiency to stand as credible evidence to overturn the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s fair market value. Supra, ¶ 62.
78. The nine “comparable sales” utilized by Brown in his appraisal, with one exception, all dealt with property outside the state of Wyoming. The comparables involve only six actual sales, all in Colorado; one listing for a property in Mississippi; one listing for a property in Utah; and one “listing” for the Quark building in Cheyenne. Supra, ¶ 35.
79. A listing for a property does not equate to a sales price for tax valuation purposes. The Department Rules denominate the sales comparison approach as appropriate if “there are an adequate number of reliable arms-length sales.” Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(a).
80. It is also not clear whether the actual sales were adjusted for the time difference between the date of sale and January 1, 2005. Supra, ¶ 37.
81. Brown, in his fee appraisal, adjusted the Colorado sales downward 25% in an attempt to make them comparable to the property at issue. He admitted, however, he had no empirical data to support this adjustment. This is a point which concerned County Board Chairman Knudson. [County Board Record pp. 165, 167-168]; supra, ¶ 36.
82. There is further reason, in addition to the admitted lack of empirical data, to question, as did Chairman Knudson, the 25 % reduction. The reduction seems to be based, at least in part, on “comparable” # 7 - the Quark building in Cheyenne - which is neither an actual sale nor even an actual real estate listing. [County Board Record pp. 389, 394]; supra ¶ 35.
83. Brown, in his sales comparison methodology, calculates the value of the warehouse in question based on 1,120,627 square feet. Elimination of the 25% reduction, using the information set forth by Brown in his adjustment worksheet [County Board Record p. 392], produces the following range of square foot values using the same format (lowest to highest) found in Brown’s reconciliation [County Board Record p. 393]:
Indicated Value / SF
84. Brown asserted in his sales comparison methodology that comparables 1, 4, and 5 were the better indicators of value. Even using the smallest square foot value of these comparables derived after eliminating the subjective 25% reduction, $47.42, produces a building value of $53,140,132, a value significantly greater than the Assessor’s 2005 warehouse value of $44,340,143. Supra, ¶ 22.
85. The fee appraisal and testimony by Chris Brown was not sufficient credible evidence to overcome the presumption of validity in favor of the Assessor’s 2005 fair market value, particularly in light of the fact the Assessor used the Department approved CAMA system to arrive at such value. Supra, ¶¶ 62, 63.
86. Chris Brown testified as an expert on fee appraisal. During his testimony, he stated that as a matter of law all appraisers are required to follow USPAP standards. The Assessor also stated she was subject to USPAP standards, apparently because she was accredited by the IAAO. Supra, ¶ 6. Insofar as there may be an impression these standards bind this Board in determining whether the Assessor’s conduct or the County Board’s decision were “in accordance with law,” we conclude the contrary.
87. As we have already explained, the Legislature has vested the Department with the authority to adopt rules to constrain the valuation methodology used by county assessors to determine the taxable value of property for ad valorem purposes. Supra ¶¶ 53, 54, 60, 61. The Department has issued such rules. See generally, Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9. To interpret these rules, we apply rules of statutory interpretation. State ex rel. Department of Revenue v. Buggy Bath Unlimited, Inc., 2001 WY 27, ¶6, 18 P.3d 1182, 1185 (Wyo. 2001). “Initially, we make an inquiry respecting the ordinary and obvious meaning of the words employed according to their arrangement and connection. We construe together all parts of the statute in pari materia, giving effect to each word, clause, and sentence so that no part will be inoperative or superfluous.” In re WJH, 2001 WY 54, ¶ 7, 24 P.3d 1147, 1150 (Wyo. 2001).
88. The Department’s Rules include a definition of the Appraisal Foundation. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 4(g). The definition identifies the International Association of Assessing Officers as a regular institutional member of the Appraisal Foundation. Id. The Department’s Rules, however, go no further in the direction of adopting IAAO standards or USPAP. See generally, Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9. This absence is a significant omission in light of the Department’s definition. In the absence of such an affirmative adoption of IAAO and USPAP standards by rule, we can not and must not apply the IAAO and USPAP standards as Wyoming law. In so concluding, we reject any assertion the IAAO and USPAP standards govern in the absence of specific Departmental rules to the contrary.
89. The Assessor’s statement she is subject to the USPAP and IAAO standards, supra, ¶ 6, does not provide those standards with the force and effect of law. The professional standards were a factor which the County Board could have taken into account when evaluating the facts in the case, just as it could have taken into account the training received by the Assessor in IAAO and USPAP principles. Supra, ¶ 6. However, as a factor, the County Board was free to weigh the application of USPAP and IAAO standards in the context of other facts in the case, without being bound to accord those standards the status of inviolable principles of Wyoming law.
90. Petitioner presented the testimony of Steve Letman. Letman acknowledged that although he had exposure to computer assisted mass appraisal systems in other states, he had no experience with the Wyoming CAMA system. He admitted he had not read the Wyoming statutes on property valuation; had not reviewed Department rules; had not visited with the Department about the CAMA system; had not visited with the Assessor or anyone on her staff; and was not familiar enough with the Boeckh system used by the Wyoming CAMA system in order to know how it works. Supra, ¶¶ 43, 44.
91. Letman was willing, however, notwithstanding his lack of background on Wyoming property valuation, to offer his opinion that no CAMA system is capable of valuing a million-square-foot facility. He also hinted the Assessor’s value was deficient because it did not consider functional and external obsolescence despite the fact the Assessor testified she determined neither type of obsolescence affected Petitioner’s warehouse, and the Brown appraisal specifically declined to consider any external obsolescence in the cost approach. Supra, ¶¶ 45, 47, 48, 69.
92. “Economic obsolescence is defined as ‘impairment of desirability or useful life arising from factors external to the property, such as economic forces or environmental changes which affect supply-demand relationships in the market.’ DOR Rules, Ch. 9, § 6(b)(v)(D)(III) See also, Holly Sugar, 839 P.2d at 961.” Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 29, 132 P.3d 801, 810 (Wyo. 2006). Petitioner has the burden to show by substantial evidence the “economic forces or environmental changes” which are alleged to be causing the economic obsolescence. Id. Petitioner did not provide any such evidence to support any finding of economic obsolescence. Brown’s appraisal in fact specifically declined to consider any external obsolescence in the cost approach. Supra, ¶ 69. It is not the burden of an assessor to allow any such obsolescence without supporting evidence from a Petitioner.
93. Letman’s opinion is not sufficient credible evidence to overcome the presumption of validity in favor of the Assessor’s value. Supra, ¶ 62.
94. Letman, based on his experience in tax appeals in other jurisdictions, supra ¶ 45, seems to argue that Petitioner, by presenting an independent fee appraisal, somehow triggers an obligation on the part of the Assessor to respond in kind, and then negotiate a value between the two appraisal numbers. The negotiation of value is not an approach to valuation approved by the Department Rules, and is clearly not the practice in Wyoming. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(a), (b), (c), and (d).
95. Petitioner asserts the County Board decision affirming the Assessor’s 2005 value for its property is arbitrary and capricious and inconsistent with law. Such assertion is based on Petitioner’s dual arguments the Assessor considered only the CAMA system value, and failed to reconcile other indicators of value as required by the Department Rules.
96. The assertions raised by Petitioner are quite clearly contradicted by the Assessor’s testimony under oath at the County Board hearing as is evident by comparing the methods for determining value with the Assessor’s testimony. The Department has, by Rule, identified three acceptable methods for determining fair market value for purposes of taxation - sales comparison approach, a cost approach, an income or capitalized earning approach, one or all of which may be incorporated in the CAMA system. The use of a fee appraisal is not an identified acceptable method. Supra, ¶¶ 7, 60; Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(a), (b), (c), and (d).
97. The Assessor considered the nature of the property to be valued, as well as information available for the property. She exercised her appraisal judgement to determine which of the three acceptable methods was most appropriate to value the property in question. Supra, ¶ 8.
98. The Assessor testified she did not chose the sales comparison approach due to a lack of information on valid, open market sales of comparable properties during the calendar year 2004 in Laramie County. The Department Rules provide the sales comparison approach is appropriate if “there are an adequate number of reliable arms-length sales.” Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(a). The Assessor testified she did not investigate whether comparable sales existed outside Laramie County nor outside the state of Wyoming as it is difficult to get accurate, verified sales information from other counties and other states. She also testified the typical commercial sale either involves a land purchase with subsequent building construction, or subsequent remodeling of existing buildings. In addition, sales from outside Laramie County and outside the state of Wyoming can not be keyed into the Laramie County CAMA system. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(a). Supra, ¶¶ 10, 11, 21 28.
99. The Assessor testified she chose not to use a trended cost approach used by Chris Brown for two reasons. First, the accuracy of original costs; and second, for purposes of uniformity. The Assessor stated, in her professional judgement, use of trended original cost on one building, such as the warehouse in question, would require using the same method for all similar properties in Laramie County to ensure the required uniformity of assessment, and costs for all similar properties were not available. Uniformity requires only a rational method equally applied to all similar property. Valuing the warehouse in question in a manner different from all similar properties would violate the constitutional tenets of uniformity of assessment. In addition, the Assessor stated she could not use Petitioner’s contract costs in the Department approved CAMA system. Supra, ¶¶ 30, 34, 55, 56.
100. The Assessor considered not only the Department approved valuation methodologies, she also considered the information supplied by Petitioner through Chris Brown. She in fact reduced her original determination of fair market value based upon information supplied by Brown. The Assessor concluded, in her professional judgement, the cost approach through the CAMA system was the best method for valuing Petitioner’s warehouse. Supra, ¶¶ 2, 21, 31.
101. Petitioner, in its opening brief and at oral argument, is severely critical of what it argues was the failure by the Assessor to fulfill her statutory duty to evaluate the most appropriate methodology and reconcile the indicators of value in assessing the property at issue, citing Chapter 9, §§ 6 and 7 of the Department Rules. Petitioner makes this argument notwithstanding the fact the County Board record indicates the Assessor fully complied with cited sections of the Department Rules.
102. The Assessor considered the nature of the property at issue, and the information with regard thereto. She exercised her professional judgement to choose the most appropriate valuation method. The Assessor’s choice was the cost approach using the CAMA system. She concluded, for appropriate reasons, other Department approved methods were not applicable to the property at issue. A formal reconciliation of those methods as defined by the Department was not necessary. Supra, ¶¶ 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 21, 61.
103. Petitioner, while clearly not satisfied with the explanation by the Assessor, could not, in either its opening brief or at oral argument, provide this Board with an explanation of what specific principles do, or should, apply to an assessor in order to comply with the requirements of Chap. 9, §§ 6 and 7 of the Department Rules. The best Petitioner could provide was a generic argument government officials have a duty to fully explain any actions they have taken, something which the Assessor surely did in response to Petitioner’s cross-examination before the County Board.
104. There is a presumption, in the absence of credible evidence to the contrary, that both appointed and elected officials who are responsible for establishing value exercise their honest judgement in accord with applicable rules, regulations, and other directives which have passed public scrutiny, either through legislative enactment or agency rule-making, or both. Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 13, 132 P.3d 801, 806 (Wyo. 2006). Neither the Wyoming statutes nor the Department Rules place any additional burden on a county assessor to explain to the satisfaction of a disgruntled taxpayer the intricacies of the assessor’s thought and consideration process in reaching a particular valuation decision. The Assessor testified under oath she performed the analysis required by the Department Rules and Wyoming statutes. Petitioner has not provided us any basis or justification for requiring any more detail, nor any substantial evidence to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s actions.
105. The presumption an assessor has exercised their honest judgement in determining a taxable value is the reason such value is presumed valid, accurate, and correct until overturned by credible evidence, and a mere difference of opinion as to value is not sufficient. Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 13, 132 P.3d 801, 806 (Wyo. 2006). Even Petitioner’s own witness, Chris Brown, stated it is very common to have differences of opinion as to value when dealing with commercial real estate. He acknowledged both he and the Assessor had appraised the property in question based on their respective professional judgements, and simply had a difference of opinion as to value. The presumption is especially valid where the Assessor uses the CAMA system. And it is the taxpayer who must prove overvaluation. Supra, ¶¶ 41, 42, 43, 62.
106. The Assessor, in her brief, asserts the “issue” of whether she appropriately considered all approaches to value and performed the required reconciliation discussed above should not be considered since it was not raised during the County Board hearing. [Brief of Respondent, Brenda Arnold, p. 22]. While generally accepted appellate principles discourage consideration of issues not considered at the contested case level, the issues in this matter concern the nature of the County Board’s decision. Was it arbitrary, capricious, or inconsistent with law, or not supported by substantial evidence? Whether the Assessor failed to reconcile value indicators as required by Department Rules is an argument addressed to the arbitrary-capricious-inconsistent issue, not an issue itself. It may well be in some situations an argument does not even become relevant until after all testimony and evidence has been presented during a contested case hearing. The fact a party may not have raised a particular argument at the County Board hearing is not necessarily preclusive of its ability to raise the such argument on appeal.
107. Petitioner also challenges the County Board’s decision on a substantial evidence basis. Petitioner asserts approval by the County Board of the CAMA value for Petitioner’s warehouse is not supported by substantial evidence. Petitioner argues “[t]here is no evidence in the record as to why this methodology did a better job of assessing fair market value than the two different methodologies employed by Lowe’s expert.” [Opening Brief of Petitioner, Lowes HIW, Inc., p. 24]. Such an assertion evidences a misunderstanding of the burden a petitioner must fulfill when challenging an assessor’s valuation, particularly a valuation derived utilizing a system authorized by the Department pursuant to statute. A petitioner has the initial burden of presenting substantial evidence which calls into question the assessor’s value. If, and only if, a petitioner fulfills this requirement does the burden of going forward shift to the assessor to present evidence to support the determined assessed value. The question to be answered, if a petitioner overcomes the presumption in favor of the assessor, is not which methodology is “better.” The question is whether the assessor’s value derived through a statutorily authorized valuation approach is supported by substantial evidence. The Assessor’s value in this matter is so supported. Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 14, 132 P.3d 801, 807 (Wyo. 2006).
108. The majority of our previous discussion regarding the challenge to the Assessor’s actions is equally applicable to the substantial evidence arguments raised by Petitioner, and thus need not be repeated. Petitioner’s arguments with regard to this issue assert once again the testimony and evidence of its two appraiser witnesses is sufficient to overcome the presumption of validity in favor of the Assessor’s value derived utilizing the CAMA system. We have concluded otherwise. Supra, ¶¶ 85, 93.
109. There is, in addition, sufficient substantial evidence in the record with regard to the CAMA system itself to negate any argument by Petitioner.
110. First, and perhaps most importantly, the CAMA system is a statutorily authorized and approved methodology for establishing fair market value for property in Wyoming. By law, the Department is responsible for prescribing appraisal methods for achieving fair market value, and the Department authorizes use of the Wyoming CAMA system. A Wyoming county assessor is required to follow and apply the Department procedures and formulae, and the Wyoming Supreme Court has recently confirmed the validity of valuations derived from the CAMA system. Supra, ¶¶ 53, 54, 60, 61, 62.
111. The County Board record and decision is not deficient simply because it may not recite, as we have done herein, the legal, statutory, and Rules basis for the validity of the Wyoming CAMA system, and the values derived thereby. The County Board decision notes the Petitioner must overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor, and it failed to do so. It further notes a difference of opinion between appraisers is not sufficient to establish a valuation error, and the Assessor fully explained the basis for her value. The County Board record and decision sufficiently set forth the County Board’s basis for its decision. Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶¶ 33-34, 132 P.3d 801, 811-812 (Wyo. 2006). Such a conclusion is particularly appropriate when Petitioner has not challenged the data used by the CAMA system to derive a value.
112. The County Board record does, in addition, contain detailed evidence on how the CAMA system, through its internal coding, deals with unique properties such as a million-square-foot warehouse. The system uses the cost approach based on the building characteristics gathered by the field appraisers and the annual cost values for Wyoming provided by the Boeckh Company. The system then utilizes a perimeter area adjustment, based on the unique size of the warehouse, to derive the cost value for the foundation wall, exterior wall, and roof. This same methodology is used for all structures classified as warehouses to ensure uniformity. Supra, ¶¶ 17, 18, 19, 23.
113. The fact Petitioner believes the values derived by its expert are better than the value derived by the Assessor does not translate into a lack of substantial evidence to support the valued derived by the Wyoming CAMA system. What we have in this matter, even as expressed by Petitioner’s own expert witness, is a difference of opinion between two professional appraisers:
Instead, it is clear the differences in value between the County Assessor’s and Thunder Basin’s appraisals resulted from differences of expert opinion about the proper date for starting depreciation for used property and whether sufficient information existed to justify varying from the 25% limit on residual value. These are precisely the types of differences of expert opinion that are to be resolved by the County Board. Airtouch Communication, 2003 WY 114, ¶ 25, 76 P.3d at 352; Holly Sugar, 839 P.2d at 963. “The choice of the appraiser regarding which indicator of value is most appropriate and the final value itself are matters of appraisal judgment with which this Court will not interfere if they are supported by substantial evidence.” Id. The record adequately supports the County Board’s decision to accept the County Assessor’s opinion and we find no legal error in his application of the cost method.
Thunder Basin Coal Company v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 27, 132 P.3d 801, 810 (Wyo. 2006).
114. The difference between the fair market land and improvements value asserted by Petitioner, $39,800,000 [Exhibit 6, County Board Record, p. 395], and the value determined by the Assessor, $45,740,273 [Exhibit A, County Board Record, p. 484], is $5,940,273. The assessed or taxable value to which the county mill levy applies is 9.5% of this difference which calculates to $564,326. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-101(a)(xvii)(C). The estimated annual levy for 2005 was 71 mills (7.1%) [Exhibit A, County Board Record, p. 484], thus the difference in tax between Petitioner’s proposed value and the Assessor’s determined value was approximately $40,067.14.
115. The County Board record indicates the Assessor complied with statutory requirements in valuing Petitioner’s property by use of the CAMA system to value the property as prescribed in Chapter 9 of the Rules promulgated by the Department. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6(a). The uncontroverted testimony of the Assessor showed that she followed the Department’s Rules. The County Board record contains sufficient substantial evidence to support the County Board’s decision to affirm the 2005 value derived by the Assessor utilizing the Wyoming CAMA system.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED the Laramie County Board of Equalization Order affirming the valuation of Petitioner's 2005 property 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 the appropriate district court by filing a petition for review within 30 days of the date of this decision.
DATED this day of May, 2006.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Alan B. Minier, Chairman
Thomas R. Satterfield, Vice-Chairman
Thomas D. Roberts, Board Member
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary