Recently, I opened my property tax bills and was shocked. I’m getting used to seeing increases, but never anything like this.
My home valuation has gone up 33%. It’s maddening to see this happen. Looking back, I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.
It’s the same story in all of Sheridan and Johnson counties. A friend of mine in Johnson County saw the assessment on his house go up 30%. People are not only surprised but angered by tax hikes due to skyrocketing property values.
My wife and I are lucky to be able to pay the taxes. But there are many in our community — retirees and others on fixed incomes and ordinary working families — for whom this big tax bill will be a struggle. This is especially true at a time when gas prices are $4.50 a gallon and food prices are rising.
Property taxes are tied to the “fair market value” of your property. These prices have exploded due to the trillions of dollars of cheap money flooding the economy. This is thanks to a spendthrift Congress and the Federal Reserve that has kept interest rates close to zero for too long.
It will take Cheyenne legislation to change the law to somehow cap the rate of tax increases. I welcome your ideas for legislation to do just that. That doesn’t offer immediate relief — Wyoming has a part-time Citizens’ Legislature. According to our Constitution, we meet only 60 days over two years. We are adjourned until January 10, 2023. In the meantime, I will work with others on legislation to control runaway property tax inflation.
What about more immediate relief? The amount of factory fees to be assessed is at the local level, with town and city councils, county commissions and a variety of districts. They can assess from zero thousandths up to a legal maximum. The maximum varies entity by entity. Locally, mill royalty budgets are being established. And now is the time for local boards and commissions and city councils to consider what relief they can offer local ratepayers.
It may well be that with rising costs these councils feel they are unable to offer much, if any, relief. It’s a question worth asking, though.
The only board that cannot assess less is the school board, which by law applies a fixed flat-rate levy. It’s unfortunate because most of the property tax goes to schools. But that’s no reason every other local government can’t offer some relief to beleaguered taxpayers.
Another option is to appeal your assessment. You must show that the appraisal is incorrect, usually that it does not reflect the fair market value of the house. I’ve done this once in the past with some success. This year, however, my real estate agent sent me some recent comparable sales for my neighborhood, and it looks like my assessment is a bit high compared to fair market value, but not by much.
I researched additional property tax relief options.
There are two property tax reduction programs. Check with the county to see if you qualify for any of them.
The first is the Property Tax Rebate Program. Anyone who has resided in Wyoming for at least five years can apply to the county treasurer or the Department of Revenue for a property tax refund of up to 50% of the property taxes paid on the taxpayer’s principal residence during the year. previous calendar year. To qualify, there are income and asset limits.
Second, there is the property tax exemption program for veterans. Under Wyoming law, honorably discharged veterans or surviving spouses who have resided in Wyoming for at least three years can apply to their local county assessor to receive an annual exemption of $3,000 in assessed value.
There are two other property tax relief programs, but require a county commission vote to activate them.
The first is the property tax deferral program. This allows qualified property owners to defer up to half of their tax owed. The idea is that the tax is deferred and paid on the sale of the house. My understanding is that this is aimed primarily at older people, making it easier for them to stay in their homes during their golden years.
Only Teton County has adopted this program.
The second local relief option is the county property tax rebate program. The last session of the Legislative Assembly passed an optional county property tax rebate program that mirrors the state rebate program. It allows counties to use their money for a property tax refund for residents within at least five years who occupied their homes for at least nine months of the last year. If passed by the county commission, eligible individuals can apply to the county treasurer for a refund of up to 50% of their property taxes for the previous year.
To date, no county in Wyoming has adopted this new program. But the law is so new that it doesn’t even come into force until July 1 this year. But can county commissioners start looking at this for possible relief next year?
Finally, there are two other state property tax relief programs underway, both currently unfunded by the state. This funding is a matter that will be revisited at future Appropriations Committee meetings as the draft review of the state budget resumes before our January 2023 session.