Natrona County Assessor Matt Keating defended on Tuesday the recent updated and often increased property valuations that have prompted residents to complain to the Casper City Council.

"When I ran for this office and was elected a year-and-a-half ago, I was making the comment that the Assessor's Office was broken, and I was right," Keating told the council during a work session that was broadcast on YouTube.

"The problem was, I didn't know how right I was," he said.

Another problem was that some Casper residents aren't happy with what has happened since he took office and the recently updated assessments, according to a memo by Fleur Tremel, city clerk and assistant to City Manager Carter Napier in the work session agenda.

"Since the most recent update, many Casper citizens have voiced their concerns with the new assessments, especially with regard to land valuations," the memo said. "Numerous individuals have complained to the City and have disputed the property values through the County's appeals process. The results of the appeals have not been released yet."

The council invited Keating to speak, and he said his office has had to clean up the database of the properties, the sales files and the sales-ratio analysis.

Matt Keating. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

In April, the Assessor's Office mailed more than 47,000 notices of valuation for the first time being statistically compliant with the requirements of the Wyoming Department of Revenue, Keating said.

That prompted the department to tell him he was the first Assessor in a number of years that has mailed out a fair and equitable application of the mass appraisal system in Natrona County in some time.

However, the new assessments garnered 3,000 appeals from property owners this year, Keating said.

Probably the only ones who understand the mass appraisal system are the Department of Revenue and the 23 county assessors, he said.

Council member Steve Cathey asked Keating how he sets land values, because his land has tripled in value -- according to the recent assessment -- compared to when he bought it. If anything over the years, his land should have stayed the same, he said.

Keating said his office exercised its discretion to re-stratifiy Natrona County about its statistical groups of sales.

The valuations are based off of sales -- based off of what someone paid for something similar -- but sometimes the land values made up a larger percentage of fair market value.

The assessments, Keating said, are based off the replacement cost new of a building, less depreciation, times the neighborhood adjustment, plus land is the fair market value.

Mayor Steve Freel and Cathey cited examples of widely varying assessments of neighboring lots of similar sizes.

Khyrstyn Lutz said that in her profession of accounting, dirt doesn't lose value. It stays the same.

As complicated as taxes can be, Lutz said she can explain to someone how to figure out their own taxes.

She'd like the same education about property valuations, she said.

Council member Mike Huber said the Assessor is an elected county-wide position, and the city has no authority over what the Assessor does.

He urged Keating to further educate the public how the Assessor arrives at its decisions about valuations.

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