County assessment increases 25 percent

SUBLETTE COUNTY While still preliminary, Sublette County’s assessed value increased from $1.9 billion in 2017 to $2.4 billion in 2018.

According to Sublette County Assessor Janess Saxton, the largest part of the increase is from oil and gas production.

Gas production increased from $1.213 billion to $1.514 billion. Oil production increased from $200 million to $233 million.

Property values, including homes and businesses assessed by the local assessor’s office, actually declined slightly, from $364 million to $362 million. The state is expected to certify that valuation in early July.

Despite that increase, county commissioners are asking county entities and offices to “hold the line.” Through the week of June 4 through June 7, commissioners met with department heads and agencies to review budgets. With few exceptions, budgets have been comparable to the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Commission Chairman Andy Nelson said despite being up more than 24 to 25 percent, what they are hearing from the producers in the field is to expect a crash next year. “We’re going to tank again,” Nelson said.

The tax base for Sublette County School District No. 1 will be $2.016 billion, compared to $1.682 billion in 2017. School District No. 9’s assessed value increased from $305 million in 2017, which included $39 million located in Lincoln County, to $407 million in 2018, just in Sublette County. The portion located in Lincoln County has not yet been provided and won’t be available until after the state certifies the numbers.

As a rule, the Sublette County Commissioners have assessed a full 12 mils, allowed by statutes, for the general fund.

Nelson said the philosophy has always been to assess the full 12 mils. Doing less would save the average homeowner $50 to $60 a year, but it would lose the county millions typically paid by industry. Homes are assessed at 9.5 percent of full market value while industry pay 100 percent on production, meaning if the full 12 mils are not collected on oil and gas in the year it is produced, it can not be collected later.

The Sublette County Rural Health Care District, which receives 2 mils, will receive $4.846 million based on the tax assessment.

Sublette County is the only county in Wyoming that includes law enforcement and fire services in the general mil inside municipal limits.

County Clerk Mary Lankford said when comparing costs of emergency services for the county to other towns in Wyoming, Sublette County is much more efficient. Towns inside the county pay $10 annually to the county for law enforcement and fire response. Other than that, none of the municipalities in Sublette County use their assessed 8 mils allowed by law to fund emergency services.

During the budget hearings, commissioners received a letter from a resident who complained that the county not only pays into employees’ retirement, but the county also pays the employees’ matching amount. The letter stated Sublette County is the only entity in the state to pay both portions.

Lankford disputed that, saying typically counties and municipalities would pay half or 8.31 percent, and the other half would be withheld from a participating employee’s paycheck. However, Sublette County is one of 14 counties in Wyoming that actually pay both portions of employee pension or 16.62 percent.

Nelson defended that action, saying it is a benefit for county employees and helps maintain good employees. However, he also used that benefit as a reason not to grant more than a cost of living raise to employees.

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