BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF
CHARLES DIRKS, JR. FROM
DECISION OF THE CROOK COUNTY
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2005
DECISION AND ORDER
Jr., (Taxpayer or Petitioner), appearing pro-se, on behalf of Charles Dirks, Jr. and
Baron, Crook County and Prosecuting Attorney, on behalf of Susan Redding, Crook County
Assessor (Respondent or Assessor).
This is an
appeal from a decision of the Crook 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 hearing
record and decision of the County Board. Petitioner’s Notice of Appeal was filed with
the State Board effective August 9, 2005. Both parties filed pleadings as allowed by the
State Board’s September 14, 2005, Briefing Order. Neither party requested oral argument.
appealed the County Board decision affirming the value assigned by the Assessor to 99
acres of Taxpayer’s timberland for 2005, which resulted in a tax increase of less than
$27 over the 2004 valuation. He complained about the adequacy of soil assessments for his
land. The Taxpayer otherwise relied on a letter from the local County Extension Agent, and
his own view about the value of the land.
evaluate the Taxpayer’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.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE
Board conducted a hearing on June 21, 2005. The County Board entered an Order Denying
Protest for the Agricultural Value and Classification of Timber Lands on July 15, 2005.
The County Board’s Order contained detailed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.
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 Wyoming 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; § 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:
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;
observance of procedure required by law; or
Unsupported by substantial evidence.
Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, § 9.
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
State ex rel. Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division, 934 P.2d 1269, 1272
standards of review, the Petitioner must argue that the County Board decision is
unsupported by substantial evidence, and/or the County Board arbitrarily and capriciously
determined the property’s production value for 2005 tax purposes.
We will affirm
the County Board’s decision. Generally, the Department is responsible for developing
measures of agricultural productivity which county assessors must follow to value
agricultural land. In this instance, we agree with the County Board that the Assessor
exercised sound judgment in adjusting downward a Department-mandated value, because the
Department assigned a value to the timberland that was related principally to grazing
capacity. We also agree with the County Board the Taxpayer otherwise failed to overcome
the presumption in favor of the value determined by the Assessor.
FACTS PRESENTED TO THE
County Board made detailed Findings of Fact, all of which are supported by the testimony
and exhibits accepted into the County Board’s record. [Tape Recording; Exhibits A, B, 1,
2, 4, 5, 8, 9]. We have generally expressed those Findings precisely as they were
expressed by the County Board. The County Board also reached certain conclusions which
reflect factual findings. [County Board Conclusions, ¶¶ 22 - 26]. Infra, ¶¶ 18
- 20. We generally agree that the County Board’s Conclusions are supported by the
record, subject to our discussion of the applicable law in the context of Conclusions 22,
25, and 26. Infra, ¶¶ 43 - 46.
this decision, the State Board makes minor additional observations about the record to
clarify the County Board’s findings, as indicated by references to the record.
his Notice of Appeal, the Taxpayer alleged that the State has not done a soil assessment
of his land, so that “the County Assessor had to take a shot in the dark when assigning
a value to it.” [Notice of Appeal]. In support of this allegation the Taxpayer points to
an advertisement in the local newspaper seeking employees for the Crook County Assessor’s
Office, from which he infers that no one was assigned to do land evaluations. [Notice of
Appeal]. The Taxpayer did not raise his suspicions concerning the Assessor’s available
manpower during the hearing before the County Board; those allegations are therefore
entirely unsupported by the record. [Tape Recording; all Exhibits of record]. Moreover,
the Taxpayer did not avail himself of this Board’s procedure for the presentation of
additional evidence on appeal from the decision of a county board of equalization.
Rules, State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, Section 8.
is the record owner of property identified as PID #1854633310000900, in the County of
Crook, State of Wyoming. [County Board Findings, ¶ 8]. This property is comprised of 380
Dry Crop Land
Class V, LRA4 64 acres
R-2, LRA1 32 acres
R-3, LRA1 180 acres
R-4, LRA1 3 acres
(also referred to as Substituted Exhibit 3 in the Tape Recording), County Record p. 35;
“LRA” an acronym for Land Resource Area, which is a grouping of croplands and
rangelands with similar productivity levels]. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue,
Chapter 11, §3(t). Of the 380 acres, only the value of the 99 acres of Timberlands is
at issue. [Tape Recording].
Assessor, on January 1, 2005, assessed the Petitioner’s real property in question at
$9,210.00 for the production value of the 99 acres that were named “Timberlands” and
classified, by the Assessor, as Range Class-3. [County Board Findings, ¶ 9].
Assessor assigned the above value by assessment notice dated May 11, 2005. This assessment
notice was mailed to Petitioner on May 13, 2005. Petitioner filed an appeal from the
assessment notice by Form 1, “Statement of Protest” which was received by the Assessor
and County Board on May 18, 2005. [County Board Findings, ¶ 10].
May 19, 2005, the Clerk of the Board sent out a “Notice of Contested Case Hearing”
setting the hearing date at June 21, 2005 at 8:30 a.m. [County Board Findings, ¶ 11].
introduced a report from Gene Gade, Crook County Extension Agent. [County Board Findings,
¶ 12]. Gade’s report corroborated Taxpayer’s view that the understory of the timbered
land was less productive than adjacent forested pastures, the soils were thinner and
rockier, and the terrain was steeper. [Exhibit B, County Record p. 24]. The report
concluded that the Taxpayer “had an argument for a change in classification” if the
land “was being assessed primarily as grazing land.” [Exhibit B, County Record p. 24].
The Taxpayer did not call Gade to testify. [Tape recording].
relief desired was “To get Taxes lowered to what the ground will produce.” [County
Board Findings, ¶ 13].
Dirks testified that:
a. He had no
complaints as to the notice of the hearing.
b. He had no
objections to any Board Members hearing the case.
c. He had no
complaints about the procedures followed by the Board of Equalization.
d. The area
that he requests to be reduced to wasteland or at least class 4 or 5 status is about 99
acres [and as referenced] in Mr. Gade’s report is located within a 120 acre fenced
pasture [on which Petitioner] grazes 55-56 cow calf pairs for two weeks each year.
e. He has
experience in timber management and all of his land is actively managed for timber
harvested $7,000.00 of timber off these 120 acres in 1996.
g. The land
has always been classified as timber.
h. In 2004 the
[production value of the] land was assessed at $4,550.00 and this year it went up to
[$37,320] then was reduced by the County Assessor to $9,210.
has 30 years of timber management experience in the [timber] industry and has managed this
property for 40 to 50 years and does not believe in clear cutting the land.
j. The land is
very steep with a 200 foot elevation change in the land in question.
Findings, ¶ 14, a - j].
Assessor presented five (5) exhibits which were all admitted. The Assessor testified or
introduced exhibits stating she has been an assessor for 11 ½ years; that during this
period of time she has completed numerous courses on valuation methodologies. [County
Board Findings, ¶ 15].
Assessor has received property appraiser certification which certifies that the Assessor
is recognized as an individual qualified to render an opinion as the value of real
property for taxation purposes. [County Board Findings, ¶ 16].
Assessor testified that she believed the property was properly classified and assessed
a. The primary
purpose of the Petitioner’s use of the property was for agricultural, that includes
grazing and timber production.
methodology used by the County Assessor was used throughout the County to treat each
landowner the same.
c. This method
would have given an agricultural productivity value of $93.00 per acre rather than a fair
market value of $1,500.00 to $2,500.00 per acre depending on the size of the lot.
legislation [in] 2003 included timber as an agricultural commodity and if you harvest
timber that you own and have receipts totaling at least $500.00, you may qualify for
are required to be assessed as rangeland by the Department of Revenue Rules that state the
presence of trees [is] not a detriment to agricultural land but a management choice.
f. The State
wanted timberlands classified as rangeland based upon the soils classifications but the
timberlands were never given soil classifications in Crook County.
g. The State
classified all timberlands as R-1 [and hence the highest productivity value for rangeland]
rather than relating them to the soils [specific to a location] and [thereby implicitly
determined the productive value of Petitioner’s 99 acres to be over] $37,000.00.
classification method was arbitrary, and had no relevance, so [the Assessor] changed the
values to more realistic values for everyone owning timber based upon the majority of soil
classes in a particular piece of property.
Assessor] sent out a 2nd notice reducing the valuation from $37,000.00 to
$9,210 as set forth on exhibit 4 showing the 99 acres in question.
j. The fair
market value of this land if it was not valued as rangeland would be between $1,500 and
$2,500 per acre.
The property has been fairly re-evaluated from April to May.
Findings, ¶ 17, a - k].
Assessor relied heavily on a map depicting timbered areas in Crook County, and nearby
rangeland, to explain how she approached the problem of assigning rangeland
classifications to timbered areas. [Exhibit 5, County Record p. 34; Tape Recording].
protest submitted by the Petitioner indicates that he felt the taxation system should be
changed to value the 99 acres as wasteland or classified as R-4 or R-5. [County Board
Findings, ¶ 18]. This value is lower than the Rangeland R-3 classification assigned by
the Assessor, who based her R-3 classification on the productivity of the predominant
amount of rangeland in the Taxpayer’s 380 acre parcel. [Tape Recording; Exhibit 8]. Supra,
timely filed an appeal from the assessment notice. [County Board Findings, ¶ 19].
Assessor correctly applied a statutory 9½ % rate against the productive value for
Petitioner’s 99 acres of timberland. The actual valuation against which property taxes
were levied for all 99 acres was $875. [Exhibit 8, County Record p. 35; Tape Recording].
This $875 compares to a fair market value for the 99 acres of between $148,500 to
$247,500. [Supra, ¶ 13c; Tape Recording]. By computation, the estimated Crook
County property taxes associated with Taxpayer’s 99 acres in 2005 were slightly less
than $53, compared to about half that amount in 2004. [Exhibit 8, County Record p. 35].
County Board principally concluded that the Assessor used the Department rules and
regulations to value the Petitioner’s Timberlands as Rangelands. But, since the mapped
areas as shown in Exhibit 5 labeled as “Timber” did not have a separate soils
classification, the County Assessor determined what “Rangeland Grouping” the “Timber”
areas would be by determining what the majority of other lands owned by the landowner were
in the area and classifying the “Timber” areas in a similar manner. [County Board
Conclusions, ¶ 22].
Petitioner failed to present any evidence that the Assessor did not comply with all
applicable statutes, rules, and regulations in valuing his property for 2005 fairly and
equitably with similar property throughout Crook County. [County Board Conclusions, ¶
County Assessor used the Department rules and regulations and her own formula to value all
the Timberlands in Crook County in a fair and uniform manner as Rangelands and used this
formula and classification to assess the Petitioner’s property as Rangeland R-3 which
was similar to a majority of the Petitioner’s property for the timbered areas. [County
Board Conclusions, ¶ 26 a].
PETITIONER’S ISSUES AND APPLICABLE LAW
Taxpayer timely filed an appeal from the County Board decision.
State Board has jurisdiction to hear and determine all issues raised by the Taxpayer
pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-109(b)(ii). The County Board had jurisdiction to hear
and determine all issues raised by the Taxpayer pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-102
(c) and (d).
issue raised by the Petitioner at the County Board hearing and by the County Board’s
decision concerns the valuation of timberland: specifically, the agricultural productivity
of timberland in the context of soils classifications pertaining to range land.
Taxpayer implicitly argues that the County Board erred in not ordering the Assessor to
deviate further than she did from the values established by the Department of Revenue’s
2005 Agricultural Land Valuation Study, which is the basis for valuation of rangeland and
by extension, timberland.
Wyoming Constitution, article 15, § 11(b) provides in pertinent part that: “[a]ll
taxable property shall be valued at its full value as defined by the legislature except
agricultural and grazing lands which shall be valued according to the capability of the
land to produce agricultural products under normal
authority to determine the taxable value of agricultural lands is vested in the Department
[of revenue] shall determine the taxable value of agricultural land and prescribe the form
of the sworn statement to be used by the property owner to declare that the property meets
the requirements of subparagraph (B) . . . . In determining the taxable value for
assessment purposes under this paragraph, the value of agricultural land shall be based on
the current use of the land, and the capability of the land to produce agricultural
products, including grazing and forage, based on the average yields of lands of the same
classification under normal conditions.
Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(A).
primary consideration in classifying agricultural land for assessment purposes is the land’s
capability to produce agricultural products under normal conditions. Wyo. Const. art.
15, § 11(b); Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(A); Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue,
Chapter 11, § 4(a)(i). Agricultural land includes land that is used to raise timber
products. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-101(a)(viii)(C); Rules, Wyoming Department of
Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(a), Chapter 11, § 3(w).
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, except as provided by law for specific
property, 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).
county assessor has a corresponding duty to annually value property within the assessor’s
county, and in doing so 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.
understand how the Department provides for valuation of timberlands, it is helpful to have
three definitions in mind: rangeland, waste land, and LRA.
Department’s Rules define rangeland to include timber land:
means any land, which is used for livestock production, and cannot or has not been
cultivated, by mechanical means. Wasteland and inaccessible land shall also be included in
this category. The presence of trees is not considered a detriment to production and the
land shall be valued as rangeland under the premise that the presence of trees is a
management choice of crop or mix of crops. If the forestland is neither grazed nor
produces timber products, it is not qualified as agricultural land.
Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 3(j). In this case, we know that the
Taxpayer both grazes the subject lands, and manages them for timber production. Supra,
¶¶ 10d, 10e, 10f, 10i, 13a.
Department’s Rules define waste land as having minimum economic value:
land” means land, which has minimum economic value owing to inaccessibility, boggy
conditions, sparseness of forage growth, or ditches, roads, and submerged lands, which
contribute to poor grazing conditions for livestock. It is less productive than Rangeland
Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 3(r). Under the record in this case, the
County Board correctly rejected the Taxpayer’s view that the 99 acres were waste land.
productive value of agricultural lands is generally classified on the basis of Land
is an acronym for Land Resource Area. Land resource areas are groupings of croplands and
rangelands with similar productivity levels. Both crop and rangeland have 5 LRA groupings
each. The national weather service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have
compiled climactic and productivity data. From their original documentation, the Division
has grouped the related areas into 5 LRA’s to be used for cropland valuation and 5 LRA’s
to be used for rangeland valuation. . . Rangeland LRA’s are groupings of land areas that
receive similar amounts of precipitation, share a similar topography and have similar
productivity levels (measured in AUM’s per acre). Precipitation amounts are averages
from long-term climactic studies and estimate normal conditions.
Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 3(t).
Department has adopted Rules, Chapter 11, Ad Valorem Classification, Valuation,
Methodology and Assessment for Designated Agricultural Land. Consistent with Wyo. Stat.
Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(A), these Rules provide that “[t]he Mapping and Agricultural
Manual is the Department’s official source for general mapping and agricultural land
valuation standards for all County Assessors.” Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue,
Chapter 11, § 4(a).
Department relies heavily on soil survey information originating with the federal Natural
Resources Conservation Service to determine agricultural productivity. Rules, Wyoming
Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 4(a) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv). The Department
retains the exclusive right to be the primary contact with the Natural Resources
Conservation Service for review and correction of this soil survey information, and
retains the exclusive responsibility for developing and maintaining County Land Resource
Area maps. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 4(a) (v), (vi).
County Assessor is responsible for adhering to standards and productivity sources as
specified in the Department of Revenue’s Mapping and Agricultural Manual. Rules,
Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 4(b). Each County Assessor is
responsible for developing and maintaining current maps, in accordance with the Department’s
Mapping and Agricultural Manual, that depict all three categories of agricultural land
use. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 4(b)(iii). The County
Board implicitly found that the map upon which the County Assessor relied in this case
meets the requirement of the Department’s Rule.
Department annually develops specific valuation amounts for agricultural land based upon
its Mapping and Agricultural Manual. The Department publishes this valuation information
through an annual Agricultural Land Valuation Study:
amounts for agricultural land for assessment purposes shall be based upon the Department’s
Mapping and Agricultural Manual, and shall be published annually by January first or as
soon thereafter as possible by the Department of Revenue. The valuation of agricultural
land is based upon the land’s capability to produce forage or crops. Rangeland is valued
based on grazing fees per animal unit month (AUM). . .
Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 5(a). The Department’s Rules
explain the derivation of the specific annual values, including the annual values for
rangeland. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 5(b)(ii)(C).
A range of values is generated for each rangeland LRA grouping by reference to grazing
income per animal unit month. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11,
§ 5 (b)(ii)(C)(II). An animal unit month is the amount of forage required to maintain
a 1,000 pound cow, with or without calf, for one month. Rules, Wyoming Department of
Revenue, Chapter 11, § 3(b).
assessor is required to select a value “. . . within the range of values for the current
year as published in the Ad Valorem Tax Division’s Agricultural Land Valuation Study.”
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 5(c). The assessor has
discretion to select a value within the range prescribed for an LRA. Rules, Wyoming
Department of Revenue, Chapter 11, § 5(c)(i)(A). The assessor can not select a value based on conditions that
are already accounted for in the Land Resource Areas or productivity maps, such as
precipitation, general topography and soil productivity. Rules, Wyoming Department of
Revenue, Chapter 11, § 5(c)(i)(A).
structures for valuing timberland/rangeland established by the Department’s Rules are
effectively orders, procedures and formulae of the Department which the Assessor is bound
by law to follow. Supra, ¶ 29.
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,
Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 11. “The burden is on the Taxpayer to
establish any overvaluation.” Hillard v. Big Horn Coal Co., 549 P. 2d 294 (Wyo.
view of the evidence produced by the Taxpayer, the County Board could not have set aside
Assessor’s productivity classification to establish a lower value. We agree with the
County Board that the opinions of the Taxpayer and his County Extension Agent are
insufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s determination.
[County Board Conclusions, ¶ 24].
County Board also concluded that the Assessor used the Department’s Rules to determine a
value for Taxpayer’s property. Supra, ¶¶ 18 - 20. Since the Assessor clearly
disregarded the Department’s directive to value all timberland as Rangeland R-1, supra,
¶¶ 13g, 13h, this conclusion bears further discussion. The statute and the Department’s
Rules establish (1) the Department’s responsibility to determine classifications, and
(2) the Assessor’s responsibility to comply with both (a) the general productivity
classifications determined by the Department, and (b) the range of values established for
those classifications. In other words, we must address the validity of the County Board’s
decision to accept the Assessor’s adaptation of the Department’s classifications,
rather than reinstating the Department’s Rangeland R-1 classification for timberlands.
County Board reached the correct result because the Department’s Rangeland R-1
classification for all timberlands is arbitrary under the structure of the Department’s
own Rules. The Department relies heavily on Land Resources Areas, supra, ¶ 33, as
the conceptual basis for achieving the statutory objective of assessments based on the
capacity of land to produce. Supra, ¶ 27. By definition, the Land Resources Areas
are groupings of croplands and rangelands. Supra, ¶ 33. Timberlands are treated as
rangelands under the Department’s Rules. Supra, ¶¶ 10e, 10f, 31. The result is
that the value of timberlands is not determined by the capacity of timberlands to produce
timber, but rather by reference to the grazing economics of rangeland. Supra, ¶
37. Plainly, a formula based on the amount of forage required to maintain a 1,000 pound
cow for a month has no direct bearing on timber yields. Under the record made before the
County Board, there was no way to specifically generate an alternative productive value
for Petitioner’s timberland, because there was too little information about the
long-term economic value associated with past timber harvests to draw reasoned inferences.
See supra, ¶¶ 10f, 10i.
Assessor exercised her appraisal judgment by turning to the only other policy expressed in
the Department’s Rules, which is the land’s capability to produce, and supplemented
the available information with her general appraisal judgment concerning local land
values. Supra, ¶¶ 10h, 14, 35, 37. Her reliance on the similarity of other
rangelands in Taxpayer’s parcel, thus supplemented, is a reasonable response to the
Department’s failure to provide meaningful valuation guidance concerning the productive
capacity of timberlands. See supra, ¶ 43. She did not violate the Department’s
Rule limiting her authority to select among LRA classifications, supra, ¶ 38,
because the Department did not give soil or other timber-specific classifications to
timberlands in Crook County. The County Assessor therefore did not select a value based on
a soil productivity condition already accounted for in the Department’s maps. Supra,
the timber has added value to land which was also used for grazing, the County Board and
the Assessor rightly rejected the idea of treating the 99 acres as waste land, as that
term is defined in the Department’s Rules. Supra, ¶ 32.
Taxpayer is at least partially correct when he argues that the Department has not provided
an adequate soils assessment for his timberlands, but that fact alone provides no basis
for granting him the relief he requests. If the Taxpayer remains dissatisfied with the
Department’s assessment of the soil on his land, and wishes to seek further relief from
a property tax burden that is an already modest $53 for the 99 acres in question, supra,
¶ 17, his proper recourse is with the Department. By making this observation, the State
Board expresses no opinion as to whether the Department should undertake such a review.
The State Board could not in any event order such a review because the Department is not a
party to this proceeding. Rules, State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3, § 4. However,
the Taxpayer, the County Assessor, the County Board, and the State Board would all be well
served if the Department were to modify its guidance to county assessors concerning
valuation of timberland to directly address the productive capacity of timberland.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED that the Crook County
Board of Equalization Order Denying Protest for the Agricultural Value and Classification
of Timber Lands 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.
this _______ day of December, 2005.
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
B. Minier, Chairman
R. Satterfield, Vice-Chairman
Thomas D. Roberts, Board Member
Wendy J. Soto,