BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
CHUCK HOELZEN FROM )
A DECISION OF THE FREMONT COUNTY ) Docket No. 2005-91
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2005 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
DECISION AND ORDER
Chuck Hoelzen (Petitioner or Taxpayer), appearing pro se.
James Whiting, Deputy Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney, on behalf of Eileen Oakley, Fremont County Assessor (Respondent or Assessor).
This is an appeal by Petitioner from a decision of the Fremont County Board of Equalization (County Board), in which the Taxpayer sought agricultural classification for 67.7 acres of land. 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 22, 2005. Petitioner filed a brief as allowed by the State Board’s October 25, 2005, Briefing Order. Respondent rested on the record. Neither party requested oral argument.
We evaluate 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.
The County Board conducted a hearing on June 27, 2005. On July 19, 2005, the County Board entered a Decision denying the Taxpayer’s protest.
The County Board found as a matter of fact that the Taxpayer was not able to produce sales receipts evidencing his property was an agricultural operation. The County Board otherwise found that the presumption favoring the valuation of the County Assessor should be upheld. The County Board remarked that the Assessor had produced sufficient credible evidence to uphold her valuation.
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 a County Board decision is appealed to the State Board, the State Board 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), (currently Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c)).
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. § 16-3-114(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.
Romero v. Davy McKee Corp., 854 P.2d 59, 61 (Wyo. 1993).
Under our standards of review, the Taxpayer must argue that the County Board decision is unsupported by substantial evidence, and/or the County Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it affirmed the Assessor’s valuation, and thereby determined his land should not be classified as agricultural for 2005 tax purposes.
We will affirm the Decision of the County Board.
FACTS PRESENTED TO THE COUNTY BOARD
1. Chuck Hoelzen owns 67.7 acres of land located at #1 Grandview Court, Riverton, in Fremont County, Wyoming. [County Board Record, Exhibit A, p. 12].
2. Eileen Oakley is the Fremont County Assessor. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape].
3. On or about April 25, 2005, the Assessor sent Taxpayer an Assessment Schedule listing the total market value of his property as $87,200 for 2005. Of this total $56,900 was for Taxpayer’s land, the amount at issue in this proceeding. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit A, p. 12].
4. Hoelzen filed a sworn statement of protest with the County Board dated May 13, 2005, which stated that the land was being used for agricultural purposes, but had not been assessed as agricultural, and stated five points in support of the protest:
The land is not now part of a platted subdivision.
The land is leased for livestock grazing, cattle and horses. The land has been used for pasture or grass hay every year since 1978.
The land continues to produce and income of $250 to $500 per year from minnow sales from 12 acres of ponds on the property.
In 2004, and continuing in 2005, planting has begun of cabinet grade hardwood and softwood trees. Over 500 trees have been planted to date. Tree farming will not yield a return in 2005.
Income from the property has not dropped below $1000 for the 14 years I have owned it.
[County Board Record, p. 56].
5. A hearing before the County Board was held on June 27, 2005. [County Board Record, p. 108].
6. At the hearing, Hoelzen told the County Board his land had been used for agriculture since he bought it, and for twenty years previously. He understood that his land, a large lot in a subdivision, had been ineligible for agricultural status since a change in the statute. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape].
7. Hoelzen testified he met with Ray Price of the Planning Commission who saw no reason not to withdraw the parcel from the subdivision, and questioned why it had been included in the subdivision in the first place. The parcel was a large anomaly of relatively undesirable land in the subdivision. The Planning Commission subsequently approved withdrawal of the parcel, as did the county commissioners in July, 2004. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape].
8. Hoelzen stated he had made in excess of $1,000 off the property every year since he has owned it. He generally identified the main income as related to the grazing of horses and cattle. He also makes $500 a year from sale of minnows from his ponds. In addition, he has cut hay on the property and usually gets 10 to 15 tons each year, mowing about one quarter of the property. He has also planted some trees but his success has been “pretty dismal.” [County Board Record, Hearing Tape].
9. In support of his claim of agricultural revenue, he produced a Pasture Lease between himself and Roger Smith. The term of the lease was from February 1, 2005, to January 31, 2006. The lease allowed monthly payments of $210, or an annual advance payment of $1900. [County Board Record, Exhibit G, p. 39].
10. The Assessor agreed that as of the assessment date, January 1, 2005, the land was not part of a platted subdivision. She further noted the parcel is larger than thirty-five acres and would not have to be subdivided if formed today. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 49;]. She identified other factors which prompted her to conclude the land did not qualify as agricultural. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 49;].
11. The Assessor found Hoelzen’s land included about 4 acres of ponds. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 49; Exhibit H, pp. 40-47]. The Assessor considered the sale of minnows to be commercial, not agricultural. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 49].
12. The Assessor agreed that raising trees might be agricultural, but the Taxpayer’s trees did not cover enough of his land to make a significant impact on the total amount of income the property should produce. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I-2, p. 49].
13. The Assessor likewise agreed that a grazing lease might qualify as agricultural. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 49]. However, the lessee must also be making more than $1,000 from an agricultural operation in order for the lessor to qualify. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 49]. The Assessor wrote a letter to the lessee in this case, Roger Smith, to verify his agricultural operation, but received no reply. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 49]. The Assessor noted that Smith did not otherwise own significant agricultural land in Fremont County, so she could not substantiate that Smith was an agricultural operator. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape].
14. The Assessor prepared a quantitative analysis to determine whether the Taxpayer had used his land consistent with the land’s capability to produce. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50]. She looked to the productive capacity for 65 acres of the Taxpayer’s land using elements of the methods prescribed by the Department for valuation of all agricultural lands. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50].
15. The Assessor used the Lander Area Soil Survey to determine the soil type of Taxpayer’s property. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50; Exhibit E, p. 36]. She overlaid ownership information on the soil survey map to do so. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50; Exhibit E, p. 36].
16. The Assessor determined the productive value of Taxpayer’s soil type using the 2005 Ag Land Valuation Study authorized by the Department. [County Board Record, Exhibit D, pp. 21-35]. The Assessor determined: (1) the pertinent Land Resource Area and (2) the productive class of the land. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50]. She translated this information into a standard productive range for irrigated crop land, expressed in tons of hay per acre. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50; Exhibit D, p.28]. The resulting range of production for Taxpayer’s property was from three to four tons per acre. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50]. Using the chart identified by the Assessor, those values were for Land Resource Area 4-5, Class III. [County Board Record, Exhibit D, p. 28].
17. The Assessor next multiplied the Taxpayers’ total acreage of hay producing land, or 28 acres, times the low end of expected production per acre of three tons per acre, to reach an expected total production of 84 tons. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50]. She multiplied this expected total tonnage by a low revenue estimate of $70 per ton of hay, and rounded down to reach an expected total of $5,500 revenue for 28 acres of Taxpayer’s property. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50].
18. The Assessor determined that thirty-seven of Taxpayer’s acres were of a less productive soil type, and were extremely wet. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50]. She calculated the grazing capacity of the land as 1.6 AUM’s (animal unit month). [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50; Exhibit D, p. 33]. An AUM is the amount of forage required to maintain a 1,000 pound cow, with or without a calf, for one month. [County Board Record, Exhibit D, p. 22]. The result of her calculation was an additional $800 of expected income. [County Board Record, Exhibit I, p. 50].
19. Finally, the Assessor compared the expected revenue of between $5,000 and $6,000, prepared using low-end estimates, with the Taxpayer’s actual claimed revenue. Supra, ¶ 8. The Assessor concluded the Taxpayer’s failure to achieve the low-end revenue estimate demonstrated Hoelzen was not using his land consistent with its capability to produce. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 50].
20. In conclusion, the Assessor told the County Board that while the Taxpayer may have met the minimum income requirement of statute, he did not meet the requirement that the land be used to its productive capacity. [County Board Record, Hearing Tape; Exhibit I, p. 50].
DISCUSSION OF ISSUES AND APPLICABLE LAW
21. The issue raised by the Taxpayer at the County Board hearing was the Assessor’s denial of agricultural classification for his land. The same issue is now on appeal.
22. The Wyoming Constitution article 15, §11(b) provides in pertinent part: “[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 conditions.”
23. The classification of land as agricultural requires fulfilment of four statutory requirements:
(x) The following shall apply to agricultural land:
(A) The department 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) of this paragraph. 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 average yields of lands of the same classification under normal conditions;
(B) Contiguous or noncontiguous parcels of land under one (1) operation owned or leased shall qualify for classification as agricultural land if the land meets each of the following qualifications:
(I) The land is presently being used and employed for an agricultural purpose;
(II) The land is not part of a platted subdivision;
(III) If the land is not leased land, the owner of the land has derived annual gross revenues of not less than five hundred dollars ($500.00) from the marketing of agricultural products, or if the land is leased land the lessee has derived annual gross revenues of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) from the marketing of agricultural products; and
(IV) The land has been used or employed, consistent with the land's size, location and capability to produce as defined by department rules and the mapping and agricultural manual published by the department, primarily in an agricultural operation, or the land does not meet this requirement and the requirement of subdivision (III) of this subparagraph because the producer:
(1) Experiences an intervening cause of production failure beyond its control;
(2) Causes a marketing delay for economic advantage;
(3) Participates in a bona fide conservation program, in which case proof by an affidavit showing qualification in a previous year shall suffice; or
(4) Has planted a crop that will not yield an income in the tax year.
(C)If needed, the county assessor may require the producer to provide a sworn affidavit affirming that the land meets the requirements of this paragraph. When deemed necessary, the county assessor may further require supporting documentation.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x) (emphasis added).
24. The first statutory requirement to qualify for agricultural valuation is the present use and employment of the land for an agricultural purpose. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(I). “Agricultural purpose” is defined by statute:
“Agricultural purpose,” as used in W.S. 39-13-103(b)(x), means the following land uses when conducted consistent with the land's capability to produce:
(A) Cultivation of the soil for production of crops; or
(B) Production of timber products or grasses for forage; or
(C) Rearing, feeding, grazing or management of livestock.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-101(a)(viii).
25. 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, 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). A 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. Ann. § 18-3-204(a)(ix).
26. The Department Rules define “agricultural land,” and include certain other limitations on the classification of lands as agricultural:
(a) “Agricultural land” means contiguous or noncontiguous parcels of land presently being used and employed for the primary purpose of providing gross revenue from agricultural or horticultural use or any combination thereof unless part of a platted subdivision. Agricultural land shall generally include land that is actively farmed, ranched or is used to raise timber for timber products to obtain a fair rate of return.
(i) “Agricultural” means cultivation of the soil, the production of forage or crops, production of timber products; or the rearing, feeding, or management of livestock in domestic or captive environments consistent with the land’s capability to produce.
(ii) “Primary purpose of obtaining a monetary incentive” means…for leased land, the lessee has derived annual gross revenues of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) from marketing of agricultural products when conducted consistent with the lands capability to produce….
* * *
(B) The assessor shall also consider that certain activities which appear to be agricultural in nature do not by themselves qualify land for agricultural assessment. The activity, by itself, either does not raise the expectation of monetary incentive consistent with the capability of the land to produce or occurs after the agricultural product has been raised and harvested.
* * *
(II) Grazing on land by any animal kept as a hobby will not be considered agricultural unless accompanied by other agricultural activities, which would produce a monetary incentive and are consistent with the land’s capability to produce.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, §§ 3(a), 3(a)(i), 3(a)(ii), 3(a)(ii)(B), 3(a)(ii)(B)(II).
27. The Department Rules also contain a definition of “non-agricultural lands:”
(c) "Non-agricultural lands" shall include but not be limited to lands as described in the State of Wyoming market valuation of Residential, Commercial and Industrial Lands as published by the Department of Revenue, Ad Valorem Tax Division:
(i) Lands classified within neighborhood boundaries as residential, commercial, industrial or rural, whether vacant or improved;
* * *
(iii) Residential subdivision lands developed with either predetermined floor plans and elevations or custom buildings;
(iv) Farmsteads with lands occupied by buildings which constitute the homesite including one or more acres of land used in direct connection with the homesite;
* * *
(x) Parcels of land forty (40) acres or less unless the landowner provides proof that such land should otherwise be classified as agricultural land….
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(c).
28. Administrative rules have the force and effect of law. Wyo. Dep’t of Revenue v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 2003 WY 54, ¶ 18, 67 P.3d 1176, 1184 (Wyo. 2003); Painter v. Abels, 998 P.2d 931, 939 (Wyo. 2000).
29. With regard to appeals of property tax matters, the Wyoming Supreme Court has stated:
The Department’s valuations for state-assessed property are presumed valid, accurate, and correct. This presumption can only be overcome by credible evidence to the contrary. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that the officials charged with establishing value exercised honest judgement in accordance with the applicable rules, regulations, and other directives that have passed public scrutiny, either through legislative enactment or agency rule-making, or both.
The petitioner has the initial burden to present sufficient credible evidence to overcome the presumption, and a mere difference of opinion as to value is not sufficient. If the petitioner successfully overcomes the presumption, then the Board is required to equally weigh the evidence of all parties and measure it against the appropriate burden of proof. Once the presumption is successfully overcome, the burden of going forward shifts to the DOR to defend its valuation. The petitioner, however, by challenging the valuation, bears the ultimate burden of persuasion to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the valuation was not derived in accordance with the required constitutional and statutory requirements for valuing state-assessed property….
Colorado Interstate Gas Company v. Wyoming Department of Revenue, 2001 WY 34, ¶¶ 9-11, 20 P.3d 528, ¶¶ 9-11 (Wyo. 2001) (citations omitted).
Airtouch Communications, Inc. v. Dep’t of Revenue, 2003 WY 114, ¶ 12, 76 P.3d 342, 348 (Wyo. 2003).
Thunder Basin Coal Co. v. Campbell County, Wyoming Assessor, 2006 WY 44, ¶ 13, 132 P.3d 801, 806 (Wyo. 2006). This presumption applies equally to an assessor’s valuation of locally assessed property. Id. at 806 n.1.
A. Present Use for Agricultural Purpose
30. The Assessor concluded Taxpayer’s sale of minnows was not an agricultural use or purpose, and the State Board agrees. The raising and sale of minnows does not fall within the statutory definition of “agricultural purpose,” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-101(a)(viii), nor does it fall under the definitions of “agricultural lands” or “agricultural” in the Department’s Rules. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, §§ 3(a), 3(a)(i).
31. We are unable to determine whether the Taxpayer’s claimed principal agricultural purpose of grazing qualifies as agricultural because the grazing was conducted by a lessee, and under the Department’s Rules, lessee qualification is incorporated into the agricultural purpose test. The record includes no evidence showing the Taxpayer established that his lessee “derived annual gross revenues of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) from marketing of agricultural products when conducted consistent with the lands capability to produce.” Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(a)(ii); see Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(III). We must not assume that revenue from a lease qualifies. For example if Smith as lessee were using the leased land to graze animals kept as a hobby, Hoelzen as lessor would fail to meet the requirement of the Rules. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(a)(ii)(B)(II). There is the additional difficulty in this case that the lease in question has a term that did not begin until February 1, 2005, one month after the valuation date. Supra, ¶ 9. On its face, the lease provided no evidence at all of agricultural revenue as of the valuation date.
32. The production of hay for sale is an agricultural purpose and meets the first requirement of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(I), as would the production of timber products. However, no revenue appears to be associated with either use.
B. Not Part of Platted Subdivision
33. The second requirement to qualify for agricultural valuation is that the owner’s land is not part of a platted subdivision. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(II). In this case, the Assessor did not dispute that the Taxpayer met this requirement.
C. Minimum Annual Gross Revenues
34. The third requirement to qualify for agricultural valuation is that the owner establish the statutory minimum gross revenues were derived from agricultural use of the property. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(III). Since we have concluded that the sale of minnows did not qualify as agricultural revenue, that revenue does not count toward meeting this test. We were also unable to determine whether the Hoelzen’s lease revenue qualified for agricultural status, or was even received during the appropriate time period. Supra, ¶ 31. The Taxpayer failed to carry his burden on this point.
D. Use Consistent With Size, Location and Capability to Produce Primarily in an Agricultural Operation
35. The Wyoming Constitution grants favorable treatment to agricultural and grazing lands by providing that they “shall be valued according to the capability of the land to produce agricultural products under normal conditions.” Wyo. Const. art. 15 § 11(b). The statutory definition of agricultural purposes echoes this language, limiting those purposes to being “consistent with the land’s capability to produce.” Wyo. Stat. Ann § 39-13-101 (a)(viii). Land can only qualify for agricultural classification if it meets a fourth and related statutory test of being “used or employed, consistent with the land’s size, location and capability to produce as defined by department rules and the mapping and agricultural manual published by the department, primarily in an agricultural operation….” Wyo. Stat. Ann § 39-13-103 (b)(x)(B)(IV). The qualifying phrase, “consistent with the land’s capability to produce,” appears repeatedly in the Department’s Rules. E.g., Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, §§ 3(a)(i), 3(a)(ii), 3(a)(ii)(B), 3(a)(ii)(B)(II), 3(a)(ii)(B)(III), 3(a)(ii)(B)(IV).
36. The pertinent definition of “consistent” is “in agreement or harmony; in accord; compatible.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition (2001), p. 311. The fourth statutory test for agricultural classification requires use of the land in an actual agricultural operation, measured generally by the same constitutional standard providing favorable property tax treatment – the land’s capability to produce. The State Board concludes the intent of the legislature was to deny agricultural classification to lands principally employed in other uses, such as residential or being held for future residential development, yet generating enough agricultural revenue to meet the minimum gross revenue standards of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(III).
37. The statute expressly addresses the problem that “normal conditions” may not prevail in any given assessment year. Unusual conditions may interfere with a taxpayer’s ability to use the land consistent with its capability to produce. An agricultural producer may accordingly be excused from compliance with the fourth requirement for agricultural classification, and the minimum gross revenue requirement of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(III), if it:
(1) Experiences an intervening cause of production failure beyond its control;
(2) Causes a marketing delay for economic advantage;
(3) Participates in a bona fide conservation program, in which case proof by affidavit showing qualification in a previous year shall suffice; or
(4) Has planted a crop that will not yield an income in the tax year.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(IV); see Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 10, § 3(a)(ii)(A). The Taxpayer in this case offered no evidence the County Board should have characterized as an excuse from compliance with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(x)(B)(IV), since the Taxpayer made no effort to comply with or even acknowledge the fourth requirement.
38. The Assessor prepared a calculation to quantify her view that the Taxpayer did not meet this requirement. She determined a minimum expected revenue from hay production on 28 acres suitable for such production, and a more modest minimum expected revenue from grazing fees for 37 acres not suitable for forage. Supra, ¶¶ 14-19. This calculation was consistent with statutory requirements of the Department’s mapping and agricultural manual, which we have described in detail in other cases arising from Fremont County. E.g., Fremont County Assessor (Dechert Property), Docket No. 2004-125, February 4, 2005, 2005 WL 301141 (Wyo. St. Bd. Eq.). She compared this minimum value against the income actually reported by Taxpayer. Supra, ¶ 19. Based on this comparison, she concluded Taxpayer had not employed his land consistent with its capability to produce. Supra, ¶ 19.
39. The Assessor’s calculation may not be the only approach to determining whether the use of a particular property is consistent with its capability to produce, but her approach has obvious virtues. It relies on measurable criteria. The criteria tie to the Assessor’s uniformly enforced policy concerning the size of the residential portion of agricultural lands in her county. The criteria also tie to the same measures of productivity that the Department uses to determine taxable value. They also tie to revenues that a taxpayer can readily document. These objectively verifiable measures should enable a county assessor and a taxpayer to readily reach a common understanding about whether a taxpayer’s lands qualify for agricultural classification.
40. We conclude there was substantial evidence to support the determination of the County Board, and the County Board’s decision was not otherwise arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED that the decision of Fremont County Board of Equalization upholding the Assessor’s 2005 valuation 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 July, 2006.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Alan B. Minier, Chairman
Thomas R. Satterfield, Vice-Chairman
Thomas D. Roberts, Board Member
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary