Volume 8, Number 39 - December 18, 2008
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County, politicians discuss property-tax relief
For many, the recent jump in property taxes caused by the energy boom and a large increase in the value of area homes causes owners great concern as to their ability to pay up, especially for those on a fixed income.
The Sublette County commissioners are pushing for a bill to go through the legislature to give residents of Sublette County a break from the high taxes, since the state does not allow counties to sponsor property-tax relief themselves, the county’s original choice.
Wyoming Sen. Stan Cooper and Rep. Kathy Davison met with commissioners Tuesday to discuss the different bills the House is currently working on. One major proposal in the works, according to Cooper, is the “homestead exemption” on property taxes.
The homestead exemption would apply to Wyoming residents’ primary home if they live in the state. There are three options for an exemption in the works, said Cooper. Gov. Dave Freudenthal is working on one option, the Revenue Committee (which all of the options must pass through) is working on another option and Cooper is working a third himself.
According to Cooper the main difference among the three bills is the Governor’s bill has a cap on the relief, while the other two do not.
Freudenthal’s option would provide a $5,000 decrease in the assessed value of a home up to an assessed value of $237,000. The average home value in Sublette County is $263,811.
“That’s still over the threshold,” Commissioner John Linn said.
Although Cooper’s number show only 17,000 households in Wyoming would not be eligible under the Governor’s proposal, the majority would fall within Sublette County.
The Revenue Committee is the next exemption offer.
“They’re proposing a $4,400 exemption on the assessed value,” Cooper said. “ But the big difference is there is no cap.”
Under the Revenue Committee’s proposal there would be a limit of $300 saved on property taxes, regardless of the property’s assessed value. The savings would be based on the value of a home until, Cooper said, the value equaled $200,000 or higher, and then no more than $300 in savings could be recognized.
Cooper’s option works much the same as the Revenue Committee’s option, although the caps and amount of relief allowed differ slightly.
After listening to the options, the county once again returned to the need for the county to be allowed to pass the exemption and support it for Sublette County only.
“If they would give the counties the ability, the state wouldn’t have to be doing all this monkeying around,” Cramer said. “The state gives us all these options to raise taxes. … I am asking for the option to lower them – it’s a local problem with a local solution that’s very, very simple.”
Cramer said this option was also giving relief to those who may appreciate it but don’t have the high tax increase and need the exemption.
Linn asked Cooper and Davison if they thought a coalition of affected counties coming to speak with legislators would help the cause.
“We can always try it, John,” Davison said. “You never know.”
In other county news:
• Cooper and Davison presented other items coming through the House in the near future including the smoke-free bills, possible changes to the rules and regulations governing Improvement Districts, an “existing conditions” bill that would not allow developers in ranch areas to complain about cows or someone who built next to a preexisting gun range to complain about the noise, a “golden generation” bill that would freeze property taxes once a person reaches a certain age so they could not be raised again until the property was sold, the wolf bills and a change to the chain laws.
Commissioner John Linn asked if the two thought there would be a push for the equaling of funding towards the different counties. Cooper said he did not know.
• County socioeconomic analyst Michael Coburn met with the commissioners to share the results of the Quality of Life survey and to urge the commission to look into how people in the county get their information and stay informed. Coburn said knowledge of this would make it easier to distribute learning what they need to know.
• Public Health Nurse Annie Sondgeroth resigned her post and will retire Feb. 12. The job is a State of Wyoming position and will be advertised statewide.
“We’ll see who comes out of the woodwork for that job,” she said.
Sondgeroth also requested that the Public Health office get space in the old senior center in Big Piney when the new one is built and specifically requested it not be put in the new or old clinics.
“We really like to keep our own identity,” Sondgeroth said.
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