Website content

Education or self-promotion? Keating and the county commission argue over the content of the cleaned website

Assessor Matt Keating meets with the Natrona County Commission 4/5/22 (Gregory Hirst, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo — Some content related to the Natrona County Assessor’s Office that briefly appeared on the county’s website and YouTube page has been removed at the commission’s direction, prompting an internal push for of a website content policy and a contentious exchange between the reviewer. and the committee.

Natrona County Assessor Matt Keating met with the commission in a working session on Tuesday to discuss why the documents were removed and to question his authority to do so.

“You have limited my ability to communicate with the taxpayer,” Keating told the commission, and described the decision as “overbroad.” He previously told Oil City that while the commission may have the power to remove the content, it does not.

A content item was a video produced by a Kansas studio that explains, in general terms, the role most appraisers play in determining fair market values ​​based on the computer-assisted mass appraisal system. He explains, as Keating has repeatedly over the past three years, that assessors don’t set tax rates. The same video, aside from county-specific text, can be found on the Teton and Fremont county websites.

“One of the biggest challenges we face at the assessor’s office is explaining the mass assessment system,” Keating told Oil City, adding that many of his discussions with disgruntled ratepayers begin by responding to their accusations that he “raised their taxes” and that the video was an attempt to help educate the public.

BOCC Chairman Paul Bertoglio told Oil City that while the video may be “two-thirds” accurate, it contains blatant misrepresentation.

The video states that local governments (the commission) “set the tax rate in order to produce the dollars needed for their budgets. Even if the value of each were to be halved by the assessors, the tax rate would be raised in order to generate the same amount of tax revenue…”

“That’s absolutely not how it happens,” Bertoglio said. “We figure out how much money we need to spend, then we calculate the budget. It’s not the other way around. »

Additionally, Natrona County has been “maxing out” on the number of mills ($1 paid in property tax for every $1,000 of a property’s appraised value) it can levy for over a decade. Of the 72.89 mills taken from Casper, 12 go to county operating costs – most go to the school district.

“Which county looks at its budget and then decides on the mills?” Bertoglio asked Keating on Tuesday. “That’s not correct. The implication of this is that the county commission sets your property tax…the implication is that you’re the good guy and we’re the bad guy.

The trade comes after Keating’s three-year tenure in the assessor’s office. When he took office, the office was placed under a work order by the Wyoming State Board of Equalization, which said previous assessments were largely outside of statistical and state-mandated compliance, with “undervaluation and non-uniformity in almost all categoriescompared to previous administrations.

Keating’s office has begun a major overhaul of land economic zones, among other measures, to comply with regulations. The result ultimately earned him a glowing endorsement letter from the State Board of Equalization. But it has also resulted in a steep rise in property tax bills for many county residents, as well as more than 2,000 official appeals to be heard by the county commission, many on a case-by-case basis.

The October 2021 letter, signed by the chairman of the State Board of Equalization, hails Keating’s “Herculean” efforts to bring the county’s assessments into compliance.

This letter was one of the other pieces of content from the assessor’s Natrona County website that was removed.

“I don’t dispute that the appraiser’s office has come a long, long way,” Bertoglio said Tuesday. “But there’s too much opinion in there… There’s a difference between education and self-promotion. Once you start on this path, where does it stop?

Bertoglio added that in addition to many ratepayers, “I think there are a number of us commissioners who should disagree based on the BOE hearings.”

Bertoglio previously told Oil City that while Keating appears to have followed the rules and produced the comprehensive measures necessary to meet compliance, many individual cases contained “glaring anomalies,” causing the commission to maintain assessments that “do not pass the mark.” smell test.

Asked about the State Board’s commendation letter last fall, Bertoglio said, “Come and put yourself in our shoes.”

The third piece of content removed from the site was a letter Keating wrote to taxpayers, which includes an excerpt from testimony by the vice president of the State Board of Equalization further asserting how flawed the assessments were under the previous administration.

“I think the taxpayers have a right to see these things, but it’s going to be very difficult for me to get them to them now,” Keating told Oil City.

Natrona County Attorney Eric Nelson told Oil City that he and the county’s chief information officer are currently in the very early stages of drafting a policy regarding the type of content that can be posted on a website from the county. “It’s such a unique situation, there’s really nothing like it I can find in Wyoming.”