Local property values keep rising

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Homes and other property values in Park County are generally on the rise.

“All in all, we’ve been steadily, gradually going up,” said County Assessor Pat Meyer.

Last year, the median selling price of a home in the City of Powell reached a high of $186,250 (up 9.5 percent from 2016), while the median price in the City of Cody hit $250,000 (up 6 percent).

“Powell is a lot more reasonable, but as you know in Cody, trying to find something under $200,000 is getting to be really tough,” Meyer told county commissioners last month. “So we’re doing good — I mean, we’re getting [higher property] values and so forth — but it’s getting expensive to live in the Cody area, and [the] surrounding area, especially.”

In rural Cody, buying a house with 10 or fewer acres of land cost a median price of $365,000 in 2017, according to the assessor’s office; that compared to a median price of $257,000 for homes in rural Powell.

There is a direct connection between higher prices and higher taxes: The assessor’s office assigns a market value to a home or commercial business by drawing on what similar properties are selling for.

“We just follow the market,” Meyer said. Given his office’s values are used as the basis for determining property taxes, “we try to stay conservative” and “don’t want to be overvaluing people,” Meyer said.

Thanks to the higher home prices, increased oil and gas production and other factors, Meyer says the county’s property tax base grew in 2017 for the first time in three years.

If his estimates hold up, it means local property owners will likely have to pay several million dollars more in taxes this year. The upside of a larger assessed valuation is it signals that local properties are continuing to add value and, in this case, that the local mineral industry is picking back up.

“The good news is we’re trending up again after that two-year lapse … but we did know we were going to come back up,” Meyer told commissioners.

He expects even bigger numbers next year. The assessor noted that Merit Energy — which became the county’s largest taxpayer when it took over Marathon Oil’s operations in 2016 — has been drilling new wells.

“We don’t get very many rigs in and they’re actually drilling,” Meyer said. “That’s a good sign.”

Meyer said some parts of the county added more value than others; for instance, he’s predicting that the assessed valuation of the Powell school district will rise by around 8 percent, while the Meeteetse school district will go up by about 28 percent.

Overall, he’s predicted that the total value of all the taxable property in Park County will top $681 million this year — up more than 12 percent from the not quite $605 million valuation last year.

The assessed valuation is not a comprehensive estimate of all of the property in the county. Homes and businesses are taxed (assessed) on only 9.5 percent of their estimated market value, while industrial properties are taxed on 11.5 percent. Minerals like oil are taxed on their full, 100 percent value.

The actual tax rate — known as the mill levy — is set by the various government agencies that collect property taxes, ranging from school districts to the county government to Northwest College to cemetery districts. Those entities will be setting their mill levies at budget meetings in the coming months.

Local governments collected more than $43.4 million in taxes from Park County property owners last year. Stemming from decreased mineral production and prices, that was the fewest amount of property taxes collected in the county since 2005. If Meyer’s prediction is correct, local governments should receive a few million dollars more this year.

Park County’s assessed valuation peaked at more than $1 billion in 2009, generating more than $73.6 million in property taxes.

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