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Property tax notices ready

Apr 10, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

Stronger home sales in Shoshoi and Hudson could lead homeowners in those communities to notice an increase in their property taxes compared to elsewhere in the county.

Fremont County Assessor Tara Berg said property value notices are being sent to owners Wednesday.

The notices will indicate changes based on reappraisals, steady sales figures, and other factors that are driving up property values in the county, Berg said.

Values vary

But the communities of Hudson and Shoshoni are experiencing stronger property sales than other parts of Fremont County because lower property values are creating a more attractive price range, Berg said.

"If you look at the mortgage world, I believe Hudson and Shoshoni are the places where the lending institutions" are seeing business in the county, Berg said.

She noted strong activity in the home valuation range between $100,000 and $180,000.

"When you get into the higher values, I think the mortgages have tightened up quite a bit," she said.

"I don't see us failing in this economy," she said. "But people do tighten their belts."

Overall, property sales are continuing to show steady activity in the county.

"Things are still selling," Berg said. "The number of sales has not dropped dramatically like the rest of the country. That's important for people to know ... things are still selling."

Sales figures

Figures provided by Berg show a drop in residential improved sales and vacant land sales in Fremont County for 2011, but they're still close to previous years.

Valid residential improved sales totaled 302 last year, compared to 317 in 2010 and 316 in 2009. Vacant land sales showed a stronger dip with 33 last year compared to 47 in 2010 and 49 in 2009.

"Things are still moving at the same pace as they were before," Berg said.

Other increases noted by Berg include the rising worth of agricultural land, which is related to hay production.

"That's calculated on the price of hay and the capitalization rate that's established by Farm Credit Services," Berg said. "And when the price of hay is up and people are selling their hay for high prices, that drives that agricultural value."

The increased values will reflect their tax amounts later in the year.

"Definitely they're going to notice an increase in that value that affects the tax amount once the mill levy is set," Berg said.

To follow rules created for her industry, Berg said her office performs reappraisals of properties every six years. This year's value notices take into account reappraisals performed on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

"We did the whole reservation and Jeffrey City, and then there were parts of both Lander and Riverton that we appraised as well," she said.

"We are required by rules to reappraise and physically inspect properties every six years, and when that happens -- six years is a long time -- somebody might have built a shed or a garage after last time. We may not have picked it up ... and it causes fluctuations in their values," Berg said.

The six-year rule results in a constant cycle of reappraisals for the assessor's office.

"We have to reappraise approximately 5,000 parcels a year to meet our six-year rule," Berg said.

Also affecting the values this year is an increase in the cost of construction materials.

"People are going to see differences in those because maybe the cost of brick went up more than the cost of a frame house," Berg said.

The value increase comes from the costing system called Marshall and Swift used by the State of Wyoming. The company performs national studies on construction costs, according to Berg's office.

"When we go out, and we walk up to houses, (we determine) is it a one-story house? Is it brick? Is it frame? Is it log?" Berg said.

She used the example of a one-story brick house, saying her office would determine the house replacement cost and factor in depreciation and overall maintenance of the structure and property. "If built in 1950, and they've done all the maintenance, new roof and fresh paint, it's maintained, then the depreciation on that house won't necessarily be as much as" a home with more obvious wear and tear, she said.

Info on property values and taxes

What is a Notice of Value?

The Notice of Value gives the taxpayer the market value of the property as well as the estimated taxes for 2012. The actual taxes are set in August by the Fremont County commissioners.

How are property taxes determined?

Property taxation in Wyoming is based on market value. To calculate the market value of the property, appraisers from the assessor's office gather physical characteristics such as the year built, construction type, size and other factors of individual properties.

Those characteristics are entered into the Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal System and a replacement cost new less depreciated value is calculated. This cost value is then compared to sales prices.

Once that comparison is done, all properties in an area are adjusted to market value, based on those sales. The current year valuation is based on sales information from the previous year.

What should someone do about a problem in the notice?

Taxpayers need to read the notice carefully, and any questions or concerns need to be addressed within 30 days from the date on the notice.

"It is imperative they call our office within 30 days with any questions about that assessment notice," Berg said. "Even if it didn't go up, if they have other questions about anything on there, just give us a call."

The assessor's office number is 332-1188.

What is the property tax relief program?

The Wyoming Department of Revenue offers the property tax relief program administered through the county treasurer's office, which handles applications.

"It's based on income," Berg said, noting the program will offer a refund of property tax under certain financial circumstances. "The hard thing about it is you have to pay your property tax" initially before getting a refund.

Visit the website revenue.state.wy.us to find an application for the program.

How can someone enroll in the veterans tax exemption?

An honorably discharged veteran who served during a specified period of active conflict and who has been a Wyoming resident for the last three years can qualify.

Veterans who are not registered must bring their discharge papers (DD214 form) for review at the assessor's office to determine if they meet eligibility. Eligible veterans already participating can call 332-1188 to renew their exemption. The deadline is May 28.

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