Finding Out How Property is Really Assessed

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If you own property, then you must pay taxes on it of course.
But how much you pay, may be a bit confusing.

“I’m not entirely sure how they're done, but I can tell you that since I’ve owned a home, every year, probably for the last five or six years, my rate of taxes that I’m paying on said home have gone up,” said homeowner Elizabeth Smith. “I wouldn't say exponentially quite yet, but I’m definitely paying substantially more than what I was originally paying.”

I sat down with Natrona County assessor Tammy Saulsbury, who explains there are several factors considered in property and home assessments.

“The assessments for market value on property are gathered from valid sales that we collect from January first through December thirty-first of the previous year,” explains Saulsbury. “And that's by statute. The other part of that is we cost tables from Marshall and Swift. And those are downloaded from the department of revenue.”

Earlier this year, County Commissioner Matt Keating noticed, something about the property assessments seemed off.

“Fair market value for this 25 acre parcel that's unimproved is 553 thousand dollars. And those taxes should be closer to two hundred dollars,” Keating points out. “The taxes that are for this tax payer are at 3,571 dollars. So the tax payers aren't getting the relief that they should.”

A significant jump in property valuation, some areas increasing over 15-hundred percent!

Saulsbury does say there’s a reason for such an increase.

“Nothing is perfect, so we try to do all the checks and balances before we send out notices. Sometimes, we don't get them all or we miss some,” continues Saulsbury. “Factors have been removed off of those parcels because we were questioned why those factors were there in the first place, so in certain areas, we removed them, in hopes that the tax payer would come in, which most of them did. And then the ones that did not, of course, when they got their tax bill, we looked at them then.”

A difference, between paying a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in property taxes. Some homeowners aren’t buying it though. After having their homes appraised, many find their homes aren’t worth as much they are assessed.

Smith noticed her assessment value after applying for a home equity loan to fix her house, which includes a leaking roof.
The bank turned her down.

“I don't understand how property value can go down to the extent that they do and then still be expected to pay taxes on something that you'll never actually reap the cost out of,” added Smith.
Keating, who was in the real estate business, decided to run for the assessor's office, wanting to give what he considers, fair assessments.

“Wyoming puts a lot of money into consensus revenue estimating group, the CREG report,” Keating says. “And we would track that to make sure that the fair market values that we're issuing, make sure that we're trending in that direction. So property values would go up, only if they're actual values of increase. And will go down if property value actually decreased.”

"It doesn't matter who comes in to the office,” stated Saulsbury. “They have to follow the statutes and the department of revenue."