County valuation soars past $300 million mark

By Nathan Oster

Big Horn County residents who did not take a close look at their property assessment notices when they arrived in their mailboxes a few months ago are likely in for a big surprise when they get their property tax bills in September.

On average, each residential property in the county increased by about 17% this year, according to Gina Anderson, who serves as the county assessor.

She said she and her staff use a combination of cost tables provided by the state and market data from recent sales to set property values.

The cost tables reflect the expense of replacing the improvements on your property. 

"The last few years, while so many people have been building, the cost of materials has gone way up," said Anderson. "Even though it was a relatively short window of time, those are the figures and calculations that are used, and that caused our values to go up even though some of the sales weren't as high."

While residents will feel the pain, every taxing jurisdiction in the county stands to benefit. Their mill levies will generate considerable more in 2023 than they did in 2022.

Anderson released her office's annual county valuation figures last week.  The combined value of all property in the county rose to $303.4 million, an increase of about $55,000, or 18%, compared to the 2022 figure of $248.4 million.

In the last 20 years, the only time that Big Horn County had a higher valuation was 2009, when it came in around $307 million.

Then as it is now, the high total can be tied to spikes in the value of state assessed land.  From 2022 to 2023, it rose from $119.4 million to $151.6 million.

Within that state-assessed breakdown, the largest dollar increases were found in oil (from $65.1 million to $91.7 million), railroad ($12.5 million to $14.2 million), natural gas ($2.5 million to $4.1 million), and bentonite ($23.9 million to $26.7 million).

The sharpest declines were observed in the following state-assessed categories: reseller telecommunications companies, gypsum, rural electrics and liquid pipeline companies.

While every tax district in the county gained valuation, those in the north generally saw more sizable increases than the south due to their closer proximity to oil and gas development, said Anderson.

The value of all residential properties was set at $151.8 million, up from $129.0 million.

Among the school districts, those in Greybull and Lovell saw the greatest increases, each rising around 30%.  Basin's increased by 26%, Cowley/Burlington by 20%.

Among towns, Lovell's valuation grew by close to $5 million (12.8 million to $17.5 million), Greybull and Basin by $3.4 and 3.1 million, respectively.

When will the upward trendline start to plateau?  "We've been having this discussion among ourselves," said Anderson. "It has to -- eventually the market will start coming down."