Teton County seniors rejoice amid boost in property tax relief

This comes as homeowners across the Cowboy State are feeling an increased tax burden.
Becky Ann Murphy (left) and Diane Hazen (right) sit in the dining room at the Senior Center of Jackson Hole, after listening to Teton County officials explain the state's new property tax relief laws. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

Some Teton County seniors say their concerns are finally being heard in Cheyenne when it comes to property taxes. 

This comes as more homeowners are feeling the financial crunch across the state. 

“We tend to be thought of as whiners [in Teton County],” said Becky Ann Murphy, whose family has lived in the region since the homesteader times. “But now, Lincoln County has been affected and Cody has been affected and Sheridan has been affected.”

Wearing a purple puffy jacket, Murphy sat in the front row at a recent discussion with county officials about new relief programs. 

About 70 residents filled the dining room at Jackson’s senior center on March 28, with another 30 tuning in online — many of them long-time homeowners.

Becky Ann Murphy and her friend, Diane Hazen, listen to the property tax discussion on March 8, as others raise their hands with questions. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)


Murphy said she and others have watched their property taxes skyrocket in recent years, as property values exploded in the Tetons.

“It went up 50% and then 50%, and we were paying $75,000,” she said. “And we had built our house 25 years ago. And it was, we thought, expensive then.”

But Murphy said she’s optimistic that, in the wake of this year’s legislative session, relief is coming. 

New laws

Murphy said she’s particularly excited about one of the new laws, House Bill 3. It will go into effect in 2025 and exempt 50% of the home’s value from being taxed for longtime owners over age 65. 

Teton County Assessor Melissa Shinkle described that law to the crowd as “a targeted, thoroughly discussed plan to assist the people who have been living in Wyoming the longest and paying their taxes the longest.”

Reading from a long list of notes, Shinkle said that homeowners can double up with relief programs. Another new law, which goes into effect this year, caps annual tax increases at 4%. 

Lawmakers also expanded the property tax relief program to include people making up to 145% of the county’s median household income. In Teton County, that’s about $179,000, according to Shinkle, and refunds would be a couple thousand dollars.

The state will be rolling out its refund program on April 15, while the county will roll its own program out later this year. 

Teton County Assessor Melissa Shinkle explains how to apply and who qualifies for the new property tax relief measures. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

But not all the proposed property tax legislation made it through this year. 

Governor Mark Gordon recently vetoed what Shinkle described as the “big cherry on top of the sparkler in the confetti” — Senate File 54, which would have given an extra 25% exemption for the next two years. 

Lawmakers considered going back to Cheyenne to hold a special session, and some said they specifically wanted to override the governor’s veto to pass that bill, but they ultimately decided against it. 

Still, Shinkle said she’s “relieved” legislators finally passed some of the laws.

“I’ve had a lot of meetings with many of you in this room, and the discussion has often been until the rest of the state has a problem, they’re not going to do anything for our county,” she said. “And finally, you know, it kind of reached a fever pitch across the state.”

‘They are paying attention’

Diane Hazen sat next to Murphy on a yellow couch in the senior center dining room after the discussion. 

“I’m at a point now where my Social Security income does not cover my property taxes,” Hazen said. 

She said she’s lived on South Park Loop for 40 years and is neighbors with Murphy’s mom, who’s 94 and also in need of relief. 

“So I don’t know how somebody who’s living on Social Security can survive, Hazen said. “And I’ve known a number of people who’ve moved from the county as a result of their property tax valuation or expense.”

But, like Murphy, she’s looking forward to help for long-time homeowners, like her. 

I am grateful that they are paying attention,” Murphy added, “that they are making a difference and representing Teton County, well, finally.”

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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