BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
FOR THE STATE OF WYOMING
IN THE MATTER OF THE APPEAL OF )
GREGG & ELLEN PIVER FROM )
A DECISION OF THE LARAMIE COUNTY ) Docket No. 2008-90
BOARD OF EQUALIZATION - 2008 )
PROPERTY VALUATION )
DECISION AND ORDER
Gregg and Ellen Piver (Taxpayers) appeared pro se.
Mark T. Voss, Laramie County Attorney, appeared on behalf of Brenda Arnold, Laramie County Assessor (Assessor).
This is an appeal from a decision of the Laramie County Board of Equalization (County Board) affirming the Assessor’s valuation of Taxpayers’ property for 2008 tax purposes. Taxpayers’ Letter Notice of Appeal was filed with the State Board effective August 19, 2008. The Assessor and Taxpayers filed briefs as allowed by the September 25, 2008, State Board Briefing Order, and December 16, 2008, Order Granting Motion for Extension of Time to File Briefs and Denying Request for Oral Argument. Taxpayers requested oral argument by motion dated December12, 2008. The motion was not timely, being due not later than October 6, 2008. The Board denied Taxpayers’ request by order dated December 16, 2008.
The State Board of Equalization (State Board), comprised of Thomas R. Satterfield, Chairman, and Thomas D. Roberts, Vice-Chairman, considered the Taxpayers’ Letter Notice of Appeal, Brief of Contestant, the Assessor’s Brief of Respondent, the County Board Record, and the decision of the County Board .
We evaluate Taxpayers’ appeal of the County Board decision against our standard of review, which is whether the decision 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 June 13, 2008, at which Ellen Piver and the Assessor each testified and presented exhibits. The County Board entered its Decision on July 30, 2008, affirming the Assessor’s 2008 fair market value for Taxpayers’ property. The decision was mailed to Taxpayers on July 31, 2008. [County Board Record, pp. 72-80].
The State Board is required to “hear appeals from county boards of equalization.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c). Taxpayers filed a timely appeal of the County Board decision with the State Board effective August 19, 2008. 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 with 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), (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. § 16-1-114(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:
When [a person] challenges a [county board]'s findings of fact and both parties submitted evidence at the contested case hearing, we examine the entire record to determine if the [county board]'s findings are supported by substantial evidence. Colorado Interstate Gas Co. v. Wyoming Department of Revenue, 2001 WY 34, ¶ 8, 20 P.3d 528, 530 (Wyo.2001); RT Commc'ns, Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization, 11 P.3d 915, 920 (Wyo.2000). If the [county board]'s findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, we will not substitute our judgment for that of the [county board] and will uphold the factual findings on appeal. “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence; it is evidence that a reasonable mind might accept in support of the conclusions of the agency.” Id.
Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Department of Revenue, 2007 WY 79, ¶ 9, 158 P.3d 131, 134 (Wyo. 2007).
We review the findings of ultimate fact of a county board of equalization de novo:
“When an agency’s determinations contain elements of law and fact, we do not treat them with the deference we reserve for findings of basic fact. When reviewing an ‘ultimate fact,’ we separate the factual and legal aspects of the finding to determine whether the correct rule of law has been properly applied to the facts. We do not defer to the agency’s ultimate factual finding if there is an error in either stating or applying the law.” Basin Elec. Power Co-op., Inc. v. Dep’t of Revenue, State of Wyo., 970 P.2d 841, 850-51 (Wyo. 1998)(citations omitted).
Britt v. Fremont County Assessor, 2006 WY 10, ¶ 17, 126 P.3d 117, 123 (Wyo. 2006).
We must also apply this “arbitrary and capricious” standard:
Even if sufficient evidence is found to support the agency’s decision under the substantial evidence test, this [Board] is also required to apply the arbitrary-and-capricious standard as a “safety net” to catch other agency action which might have violated the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act. Decker v. Wyoming Medical Comm’n, 2005 WY 160, ¶ 24, 124 P.3d 686, 694 (Wyo. 2005). “Under the umbrella of arbitrary and capricious actions would fall potential mistakes such as inconsistent or incomplete findings of fact or any violation of due process.” Id. (quoting Padilla v. State ex rel. Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Comp. Div., 2004 WY 10, ¶ 6, 84 P.3d 960, 962 (Wyo. 2004)).
State ex rel. Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Comp. Div. v. Madeley, 2006 WY 63, ¶ 8, 134 P.3d 281, 284 (Wyo. 2006).
Taxpayers generally assert, in both their Letter Notice of Appeal and Brief of Contestant, that the County Board decision is not supported by substantial evidence as the comparable properties relied upon by the Assessor in valuing Taxpayers’ property were not the same type or structure as Taxpayers’ home. Taxpayers also assert the County Board did not consider all eight of the comparable properties in the market analysis presented by Taxpayers. [Letter Notice of Appeal; Brief of Contestant (Gregg & Ellen Piver)].
The Assessor simply states the issue as: “Whether the CBOE’s decision in this matter was in accordance with law and supported by substantial evidence in the record, or whether it was arbitrary, capricious, and constituted an abuse of discretion.” [Brief of Respondent (Assessor), p. 4].
Taxpayer, in order to prevail, must establish the County Board decision is not supported by substantial evidence, and/or the County Board acted unlawfully, arbitrarily, and capriciously in affirming the Assessor’s value for 2008 tax purposes.
We conclude the decision of the County Board was neither unlawful, arbitrary, nor capricious. We further conclude there was substantial evidence in the County Board record supporting the County Board decision.
FACTS PRESENTED TO THE COUNTY BOARD
1. Taxpayers own residential property at 10711 East Polo Plate, Cheyenne, Laramie County, Wyoming. [County Board Record, pp. 31, 49]. The property consists of a 2602 square foot, split level home, with a 576 square foot attached garage. [County Board Record, pp. 53, 55, 57].
2. The Assessor’s office completed an on-site inspection of Taxpayers’ property on September 25, 2006. The condition and quality were both rated as average. [County Board Record, pp. 9, 22, 55-57].
3. An assessment schedule was sent to Taxpayers on March 17, 2008, reflecting an appraised value for their property of $291,851. [County Board Record, pp. 9, 49].
4. Ms. Piver requested a review of her property on March 26, 2008. The Assessor provided her a list of all valid open market sales which had occurred in the area of Taxpayers’ property in 2007. The Assessor notified Taxpayers by letter dated March 31, 2008, she believed the 2008 value for their property was based on accurate information and within statutory requirements. [County Board Record, p. 9].
5. Taxpayers filed a formal appeal with the Assessor on April 7, 2008. [County Board Record, pp. 9, 29].
6. The County Board held a hearing on Taxpayer’s appeal on June 13, 2008. [County Board Record, p. 1].
7. Ellen Piver testified at the County Board hearing with regard to an April 5, 2008, market analysis done for Taxpayers’ property by William Lewis, a Cheyenne realtor. The analysis was based on four residential properties sold in 2007. Lewis also supplied Taxpayers the Multiple Listing Service information for four additional properties which were then currently on the market. [County Board Record, pp. 4-5, 30-47].
8. Ms. Piver asserted Taxpayers’ property should be valued at no more than the amount shown by the market analysis, $274,731. [County Board Record, p. 6].
9. The Assessor has been a certified Wyoming tax appraiser since 1989, and is accredited by the International Association of Assessing Officers. [County Board Record, pp. 6-7].
10. The Assessor’s evidence included a map indicating the location of all valid open market sales in 2007 for both vacant and improved parcels within the area where Taxpayers’ property is located. [County Board Record, pp. 10, 50].
11. The Assessor is required to use a computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) system supplied by the State of Wyoming. The system uses a Marshall & Swift cost approach to value the replacement cost new of a property based on the property’s characteristics as entered into the CAMA system by the Assessor’s office. Depreciation is calculated based on the effective age and condition of the property. [County Board Record, pp. 10-11].
12. There was a data entry error in the Assessor’s office calculations for Taxpayers’ property in 2007. The error affected the depreciation applicable to Taxpayers’ residence. The residence was originally built in 1980, however, there was a substantial addition made to the original structure in 2006. The addition should have changed the effective age of the residence in the 2007 valuation calculations from 25 years to 9 years. The 2007 valuation, however, incorrectly used a depreciation factor of 27% based on an age of 25 years rather than a depreciation factor of 9% based on an age of 9 years. The depreciation error was corrected for 2008. The depreciation factor for 2008 was also 9 %. [County Board Record, pp. 11-13, 21, 55, 63, 65-66].
13. The Assessor compared the sales price to the replacement cost new less depreciation (RCNLD) for each of the 58 valid open market sales in 2007 in the area of Taxpayers’ property. The comparison indicated the sales price paid by buyers for the open market sales exceeded RCNLD by 20%. The Assessor thus increased the RCNLD for each property in the area, including Taxpayers’, by 20% to reach a fair market value. [County Board Record, pp. 12, 18-19, 59-62].
14. The Assessor also testified concerning State Board equalization standards, and her compliance as Assessor with those standards for the 2008 tax year. There is, however, no indication the County Board relied on this information in reaching its ultimate decision. [County Board Record, pp. 12-13].
15. The Assessor reviewed the market analysis provided by Taxpayers. Sale number one was a relocation company sale, and thus not considered an open market sale. Sale number two was a foreclosure sale. It appears Lewis, in his market analysis, applied value adjustments to the four sold properties in order to match the characteristics of Taxpayers’ property. The value he attributes to Taxpayers’ property is the average of the derived values for all four comparison properties. [County Board Record, pp.14-15, 30, 32, 34].
16. The difference between the Assessor’s value of $291,851, and Taxpayers’ requested value of $274,731, is less than 10%. [County Board Record, p. 16].
17. The Assessor asserted she conducted her analysis to arrive at the fair market value for Taxpayers’ property in compliance with the applicable Wyoming statutes and rules. [County Board Record, p. 17].
18. The Assessor stated the definition of “average condition” as:
[s]ome evidence of deferred maintenance and normal obsolescence with age in that a few minor repairs are needed along with some refinishing, but with all major components still functional and contributing toward an extended life expectancy. Effective age in utility is standard for like properties.
[County Board Record, p. 23].
19. The Assessor stated the definition of “fair condition” as:
Much repairs are needed. Many items need refinishing or overhauling. Deferred maintenance is obvious, inadequate building utility and services, all shortening the life expectancy and increasing the effective age.
[County Board Record, p. 23].
20. The County Board issued its decision on July 30, 2008, affirming the Assessor’s 2008 fair market value of Taxpayer’s property. The decision was mailed to Taxpayers on July 31, 2008. [County Board Record, pp. 72-80].
DISCUSSION OF ISSUES AND APPLICABLE LAW
21. The State Board is authorized to “hear appeals from county boards of equalization.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102.1(c). Taxpayer filed a timely appeal of the County Board decision with the State Board effective August 27, 2008. Rules, Wyoming State Board of Equalization, Chapter 3 § 2.
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 Wyoming Constitution, article 15 § 11(d), requires “[a]ll taxation shall be equal and uniform within each class of property. The legislature shall prescribe such regulations as shall secure a just valuation for taxation of all property, real and personal.”
24. 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. v. Dept. of Revenue, 970 P.2d 841, 852 (Wyo.1998).
25. The Legislature has required all property in Wyoming to be valued annually at fair market value. Wyo. Stat. Ann.§ 39-13-103(b)(ii). The statutory valuation date is January 1 of each year; all taxable property must be valued and assessed for taxation in the name of the owner of the property on that date. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(i).
26. 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).
27. Each county assessor annually determines the fair market value of residential real property within their county. Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 18-3-204(a)(i), (ii), (vi); Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(i). In so doing, the assessor must “[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).
28. The Department has a corresponding statutory obligation 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), (xix). The Department is required to “[p]rescribe the system of establishing the fair market value of all property valued for property taxation to ensure that all property within a class is uniformly valued.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-102(c)(xv). In particular, the Department must “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).
29. The Department has promulgated rules which establish appraisal techniques which may be used by an assessor. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6. These techniques include the Sales Comparison Approach, the Cost Approach, and the Income or Capitalized Earnings Approach. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6 (a.), (b.), (c.). 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).
30. The sales comparison approach “models the behavior of the market by comparing the properties being appraised (subjects) with similar properties that have recently sold (comparable properties)…Comparable properties are selected for similarity to the subject property…. [A] market value for the subject property is estimated from the…sales prices of the comparable properties.” Property Appraisal and Assessment Administration, p. 153 (IAAO, 1990).
31. The Department’s Rules provide for use of a CAMA system. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6 (d.). CAMA “automates the comparable sales and replacement cost methods.” Britt v. Fremont County Assessor, 2006 WY 10, ¶ 39, 126 P.3d 117, 128 (Wyo. 2006).
32. By rule, the Department has defined its own additional and independent responsibility to monitor the assessors’ use of CAMA systems:
(i) Annually, the Ad Valorem Tax Division shall monitor each Wyoming county to discuss and ensure utilization of the Department approved CAMA systems and compliance with all Department directives and orders with regard to appraisal method and valuation methodologies. The results shall be compiled by identifying current issues of concern and presented to the Department of Revenue Director no later than January 31st.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9, § 6 (e.)(i.).
33. 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.
34. In valuing real property and improvements for tax purposes, the assessor must take into consideration depreciation. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9 § 6(b.)(iv.). Depreciation is defined as:
(d.)"Depreciation" means a loss of utility and hence value from any cause. Depreciation may take the form of physical depreciation, functional obsolescence, or economic obsolescence.
(i.) "Physical Depreciation" means the physical deterioration as evidenced by wear and tear, decay or depletion of the property.
(ii.) "Functional Obsolescence" means the impairment of functional capacity or efficiency, which reflects a loss in value brought about by such factors as defects, deficiencies, or super adequacies, which affect the property item itself or its relation with other items comprising a larger property.
(iii.) "Economic Obsolescence" means 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. The methods to measure economic obsolescence may include, but are not limited to:
(A.) Capitalization of the income or rent loss attributable to the negative influence;
(B.) Comparison of sales of similar properties which are subject to the negative influence with others which are not.
Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9 § 4(d.).
35. An assessor is also required to take into consideration appreciation. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9 § 6(b.)(iii.). Appreciation is defined as “an increase in value due to an increase in cost to reproduce, value over the cost, or value at some specified earlier point in time, brought about by greater demand, improved economic conditions, increasing price levels, reversal of depreciating environmental trends, or other factors as defined in the market.” Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9 § 6(b.)(v.)(A.).
The Presumption in Favor of an Assessor’s Value
36. The determination of fair market value inevitably involves a degree of discretion:
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 (l923). 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). The Wyoming Supreme Court has recently reiterated the “rational method” standard. Britt v. Fremont County Assessor, 2006 WY 10, ¶ 18, 126 P.3d 117, 123 (Wyo. 2006).
37. 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).
38. The Wyoming Supreme Court has described the burden of proof for a taxpayer challenging a county assessor’s valuation:
A strong presumption favors the Assessor’s valuation. “In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that the officials charged with establishing value exercised honest judgment 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.” Amoco Production Co. v. Dept. of Revenue, 2004 WY 89, ¶ 7, 94 P.3d 430, 435 (Wyo. 2004). The Britts [i.e., the protesting taxpayers] had the initial burden of presenting evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption. Id., ¶ 8. If the Britts successfully overcame the presumption, then the county board was “required to equally weigh the evidence of all parties and measure it against the appropriate burden of proof.” CIG v. Wyoming Dept. of Revenue, 2001 WY 34, ¶ 10, 20 P.3d 528, 531 (Wyo. 2001). The burden of going forward would then have shifted to the Assessor to defend her valuation. Id. Above all, the Britts bore “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 . . . property.” Id.
Britt, supra, 2006 WY 10, ¶ 23, 126 P.3d at 125.
39. 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.
40. Our evaluation of this appeal turns, at least in part, on the question of whether there is substantial evidence in the record which reasonably supports the County Board’s decision. In determining whether the required substantial evidence is present, the State Board will not substitute its judgement for findings reasonably supported by evidence in the County Board record. Laramie County Board of Equalization v. State Board of Equalization, 915 P.2d 1184, 1188-1189 (Wyo. 1996); Holly Sugar Corp. v. Wyoming State Board of Equalization, 839 P.2d 959 (Wyo. 1992); Sage Club, Inc. v. Employment Sec. Comm’n., 601 P.2d 1306, 1310 (Wyo. 1979). While substantial evidence may be less than the weight of the evidence, it cannot be clearly contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The Wyoming Supreme Court has stated “[s]ubstantial evidence is a term of art best described as relevant evidence that a reasonable mind can accept as adequate support for an agency’s conclusion.” Sidwell v. State Workers’ Compensation Div., 977 P.2d 60, 63 (Wyo. 1999).
41. The only evidence presented by Taxpayers, other than Ms. Piver’s personal opinion as to value, challenging the Assessor’s value for their property was the market analysis by William Lewis based on four properties sold in 2007, and the MLS listing for four unsold properties. Supra, ¶¶ 7, 8. Neither the analysis nor the MLS listings are sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s determination of value. Supra, ¶¶ 36, 37, 38.
42. The market analysis suffers from at least two deficiencies. First, there is no indication of the effective date of the analysis. The relevant date for valuation and assessment of local-assessed property by a county assessor is January 1st. Supra, ¶ 25. The relevant date in this matter is thus January 1, 2008. The only date on the market analysis is April 5, 2008, which is significantly after the statutory valuation date of January 1, 2008. If, in fact, the market analysis was intended to reflect value as of January 1, 2008, such fact is not in evidence in the County Board Record. The market analysis, at best, is simply an opinion as to value which is not sufficient to overcome the presumption of validity in favor of an assessor’s value. Supra, ¶¶ 36, 37, 38.
43. The second deficiency with the market analysis is the fact, as pointed out by the Assessor, that two of the four sales can not be considered valid open market sales. One sale was by a relocation service, and the second was a sale resulting from a foreclosure. Neither would reflect fair market value as defined by Wyoming statute. Supra, ¶ 26.
44. The four MLS listings also do not reflect valid sales, but rather simply the asking prices for the properties which is clearly not relevant information for determining the fair market value of Taxpayers’ property. The sales comparison approach as utilized in conjunction with the CAMA system, relies on an analysis of valid sale prices, not asking prices. Supra, ¶ 30.
45. The Assessor complied with the requirements of state law in determining the value for Taxpayer’s property by using the cost approach adjusted to account for appreciation as prescribed in Chapter 9 of the Rules promulgated by the Department. Rules, Wyoming Department of Revenue, Chapter 9 § 6(b.). Specifically, the Assessor employed the CAMA system supplied by the Department as well as the approved sales comparison approach to value of Taxpayer’s structures. The use of the CAMA system in conjunction with the sales comparison approach to valuation is specifically authorized and entitles the Assessor’s value to be afforded a presumption of correctness. Supra ¶¶ 11, 13, 17, 27, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35.
46. Taxpayer did not present any evidence directly challenging the CAMA system or its use by the Assessor. A taxpayer can not prevail by simply having an opinion contrary to that of the Assessor and the Department Rules on how property should be valued. As we have noted, a mere difference of opinion is not sufficient to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s valuation. Supra ¶ 37.
47. The CAMA system ensures all residential real estate is valued using the same rational method. By its uniform application, the constitutional requirements of uniformity and essential fairness are met. Supra ¶¶ 24, 36, 39.
48. The valuation derived by the Assessor using the CAMA system and the approaches to value approved by the Department is presumed valid, accurate, and correct. In this case, Taxpayers failed to present sufficient evidence to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the CAMA system and the sales comparison approach used by the Assessor were not rational methods, were not equally applied to all property, or did not achieve essential fairness. The decision of the County Board affirming the Assessor’s valuation is supported by substantial evidence. We further conclude, based on our review of the County Board record, the County Board decision was neither unlawful, arbitrary, nor capricious.
IT IS THEREFORE HEREBY ORDERED the Laramie County Board of Equalization Decision and Order affirming the Assessor’s 2008 valuation of Taxpayer's 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 March, 2009.
STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION
Thomas R. Satterfield, Chairman
Thomas D. Roberts, Vice-Chairman
Wendy J. Soto, Executive Secretary
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that on the _____ day of March, 2009, I served the foregoing DECISION AND ORDER by facsimile and by placing a true and correct copy thereof in the United States Mail, postage prepaid, and properly addressed to the following:
Gregg and Ellen Piver
10711 E. Polo Plate
Cheyenne WY 82009
Laramie County Assessor
PO Box 307
Cheyenne WY 82003
Laramie County Attorney
310 W. 19th Street, Suite 320
Cheyenne WY 82003-1608
Temporary Clerical Assistant
State Board of Equalization
P.O. Box 448
Cheyenne, WY 82003
Phone: (307) 777-6989
Fax: (307) 777-6363
Edmund J. Schmidt, Director, Department of Revenue
Marvin Applequist, Property Tax Division, Department of Revenue
Commission/Treasurer - Laramie County
ABA State and Local Tax Reporter