Letters to the Editor – May 30

It is with great regret that I inform the Citizens of Crook County that effective Friday May 31, I am resigning from the position of Crook County Homeland Security Coordinator (Emergency Manager). I am truly grateful for the tremendous support I received both from the Citizens of the County and local businesses, both from financial contributions to use of their equipment during emergencies. Over the last four years we have responded to Tornados, Floods, catastrophic Hails storms, massive Snow storms and of course Wildland Fires. These disasters caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to our communities and County as a whole. Our response to these disasters was highly professional and timely. This is due to us being prepared to respond. We developed an All Hazards response organization, ready to respond not only to fires but to any type of disaster, either natural or manmade. Using grant funds and generous donations from the community we have equipped our departments county wide to a level never before achieved. As our County grows with new industries and more population the challenges facing our emergency responders also will grow. With prior planning we will be able to respond to these new challenges and continue to keep our community safe. Once again I thank you all for the support you have given me and ask you continue this with my replacement.

James A. Pridgeon

Dear Crook County Property Owners:

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all property owners that took the time to come into the office to discuss their property values. It was a great opportunity to educate you on the process, to review your account on the computer system, and to ensure that all the information was correct. We enjoyed showing you what your account looks like in the computer system. We want you to understand why we need all the information we ask for during reviews.

In response to the comments Commissioner Dennis made in the May 2, 2013, Sundance Times, I support his stand on tax payers reviewing their assessments before the deadline expires, but I feel he could have done a better job stating the facts. We were very happy to have Commissioner Dennis come in and go over his values as we were able to show him how the process works and how values are set. I am sure as an Elected Official Mr. Dennis would desire that his taxes are correct and nothing with the light of showing any kind of favoritism in his direction. He is now paying a fair and equal tax as everyone else is in our county.

In the summer of 2012 physical reviews were done on the various Dennis properties. After Mr. Dennis had reviewed his 2013 Notice of Valuation, he made an appointment to come in and discuss the increase in valuation of his property. He informed me that the dimensions of one mobile home were incorrect, it was not 16 x 70 it was 15 x 70. I corrected the dimensions.

Mr. Dennis also wanted to know why his mother’s house value had increased. I informed him that after the review, an effective age had been applied to the home because the house had passed its life expectancy. He told me that the home is in terrible shape, that it’s practically inhabitable. He said that the siding is asbestos siding, the porch is falling away from the home, it still has the original wiring, and the interior insulation is falling down because when the home was built they used sawdust as a form of insulation. I made a correction to the effective age and condition of the home.

During the review, several buildings needed to be added because they were not on the tax roll. Those buildings were added onto the account. Other buildings had the quality or condition updated.

Mr. Dennis’ agricultural land values did increase because there had not been a new agricultural count done for over 10 years and his land classification was incorrect. This means that his land has been under assessed for several years. When reviewing agricultural counts, our mapper matches land with the soil types provided by the NRCS office and are valued by how much the land is capable of producing. This is something our office has been working on the last few years and we are close to having the majority of the accounts updated. Agricultural land status is the lowest tax bracket in the county.

There was no ill intent to drastically raise or unfairly value Mr. Dennis’ property. It was all due to a review done of the property and everything being updated. That is why it is so important that our office do the reviews every 6 years, so that all Crook County property accounts stay accurate and up to date. If tax payers do not let us know they tore down buildings or constructed new buildings, we have no other way to keep properties up to date other than reviewing the properties.

Last summer we had several cases of agricultural accounts that did not qualify for agricultural status and missed the protest period due to abnormal circumstances. My intent was to work with the taxpayers, but legal procedures need to be followed when handling such cases. According to state statute the commissioners cannot accept an appeal after the deadline and cannot make decisions on these untimely appeals. This protest deadline is for the protection of all tax payers and for setting the county budgets and mill levies for the next fiscal year. The appeals should have been denied by the commissioners and then corrected through a tax roll correction or other procedural means. Since the commissioners did not dismiss these protests, I appealed their decision to the State Board of Equalization. I did work with the tax payers who protested but we could not process any correction until after the appeal was heard and decided upon by the state, which overturned the commissioners’ decision.

In Mr. Dennis’ editorial in the Sundance Times, he commented, “I am currently under written threat from the State Department of Revenue. They are not fond of me and I hope they read this. That department is obviously filled with entrenched bureaucrats.” The letter that Mr. Dennis is referring to was mailed to the Crook County Commissioners from the State of Wyoming Department of Revenue dated February 10, 2012, signed by Edmund J. Schmidt, Director of the Department of Revenue and Marvin Applequist, Administrator of the Property Tax Division. Instead of quoting the entire letter, I feel several sentences will suffice. “It has come to our attention that recently some member/members of the Crook County Commissioners is/are attempting to direct the assessment activities of the Crook County Assessor’s office. Under Wyoming Statute 39-11-102, all assessment activities of County Assessor’s offices are prescribed by the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue oversees and directs the assessors in all 23 counties in their duties and we consider any efforts to interfere with those duties as a violation of the statutes. It has been alleged that a County Commissioner has threatened the County Assessor with budget cuts and attempted to intimidate her for exercising her statutory right to appeal a decision of the County Board of Equalization. If this, in fact, occurred, it is inappropriate. We would ask that the County Assessor be allowed to proceed with her statutory duties without interference. If the Commissioners for any reason believe that she is not performing her duties according to statute or by the rules and regulations of the Department of Revenue, the matter should be brought to our attention for further review. If we continue to learn of on-going interference of the nature that has been alleged, we will be required to refer this matter to the proper legal entity for resolution.”

Again, it is your right as a taxpayer to know how your property is valued and we encourage you to stop in or call at anytime as there are possible errors (we are only human) and we cannot fix them unless they are brought to our attention. We want all accounts to be as accurate as possible.

Sincerely,

Lisa Fletcher, Crook County Assessor