EVANSTON — In the midst of a global pandemic and its accompanying economic crisis, Uinta County property owners may have been surprised to receive their 2020 Notice of Assessment from the Uinta County Assessor’s office in mid-April and see their property values, and therefore their property taxes, had gone up.
Some of those property owners have reached out to county officials to question those increases. At a recent meeting of the Uinta County Commissioners, Tom Kindler asked to be added to the agenda to express his frustration with the increase. Kindler asked why taxes were going up at the current time and suggested that employees could be laid off instead. He emphasized his displeasure with paying taxes for the operation of local schools when schools have been closed, although distance learning plans have been in place and teachers have been working for the past several weeks.
Evanston business owner Gary Nelson is also frustrated with the increase in property values. Nelson, owner of Evanston’s SportsWorld, said it was “bad enough” that his property taxes increased more than 20% last year, so he was upset when he saw the value increased again on the most recent assessment.
Particularly when it comes to his business and other small businesses, Nelson said, “There’s no way to justify increasing property taxes on businesses when there’s so much uncertainty and so many unknowns about what’s going to happen over the next few months.”
Nelson said he has sent emails to county commissioners and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon about his concerns but hasn’t received a response.
Uinta County Assessor Lori Perkins said the 2020 Notices of Assessment were mailed out on April 13 and people had a 30-day window to appeal the assessed values. She also explained the notices mailed last month are based on 2019 values and cost tables generated by the state each year.
Contrary to what some people may think, Perkins and her staff do not place arbitrary values on property. She said the state-provided cost tables are based on square footage and construction materials, as well as home features like fireplaces, appliances, hot tubs, bathroom fixtures and more items that impact a property’s value.
Perkins said values are also impacted by the market and property sales.
“If there are five or more sales within a three-year period in a neighborhood and the sales show that my values are lower, by law I am required to put a market adjustment on that neighborhood,” she said. “Wyoming values are based off of the market.”
Perkins said her office is audited by the state every year and abstract reports and sales information are also submitted to the state every year.
As for the current pandemic, Perkins said, “The only way that COVID-19 will affect the values that I derive every year is if the sales drop lower than what (the properties) are valued at. To date, the sales we have received are not going down.”
Perkins said her office has received a few calls from property owners upset about their valuations but “no more than usual.” She said people are more than welcome to contact the assessor’s office to “get educated” on the appraisal process.
Nelson, meanwhile, said he understands the values are based on last year’s information and the other factors that go into determinations; however, he still feels it’s not an appropriate time to be raising taxes. “With the shutdown, people are going to run out of money,” he said, “and once taxes go up, they don’t ever go back down.”