Weekly News Roundup: Friday, April 29

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on record real estate sales, rising property taxes and a hopeful forecast for Wyoming’s snowpack.
A wet spring has led to a strong recovery for Wyoming snowpack as of April 29. (Screenshot courtesy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service)

by | Apr 29, 2022 | Weekly News Roundups

Median home price in Teton County tops $4 million

The story of the Jackson Hole real estate market continues to be summarized by skyrocketing demand and very limited supply, according to a new report from Sotheby’s International Realty, which also found that the median home sale price in the first quarter of 2022 topped $4 million for the first time.

Brett McPeak has worked as a realtor in Teton County since the 1990s, and he said the record-breaking sales volume is piling up despite fewer total transactions. Prices are also still rising.

“Those prices are still staggering. They always have been. It’s just this ever sort of escalating increase. But the story today is there’s just so little for sale on the market,” McPeak said. “The average home price on the market as of April 1 was almost $6 million. That’s a pretty elite person that can afford a $6 million house.” 

Read KHOL’s full coverage of the new report here.

Major jump in property taxes stresses area homeowners

The latest informal Chat with Jackson Town Councilors event Wednesday highlighted a major complaint from Teton County property owners. Bruce Hawtin was the first resident to bring it up.

“I think in the over 50 years that I’ve lived in Jackson Hole, there’s never been an event that’s been more devastating to this community than this recent rise in property taxes,” Hawtin said.

The county’s latest property value assessments rose by an average of 30 to 50%, according to the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Speaking Wednesday, both Jackson Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson and Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen said they’re feeling the pain of the higher bills too–and that this is definitely an issue that has to be addressed.

“It’s unaffordable and will push many more of our community out,” Morton Levinson said.

“The single biggest thing we could do to help us with community and affordable housing would be to address this property tax [increase],” Jorgensen said. “Because if we don’t find a way to address it at a state level, we will lose the soul of this community within 5-6 years, at this rate.”

However, the key word there is state, because the state controls the vast majority of the mill levies, or mills, that determine how high a property’s taxes should be. Jorgensen said there’s a little room for the county to influence a small portion of the Teton County bills, but a true solution has to happen in Cheyenne.

“The raw, raw, frank discussion is that we don’t control many of the levers here,” he said. “The calculations are controlled by the state… and the vast majority of the money goes to the state.”

That said, Jorgensen says the county has hired a lobbyist in Cheyenne to advocate for Teton County on this and other issues. There are also three different property tax refund programs available for qualifying residents.

Candidates lining up for local and state elections

Local candidates are lining up to run for various open positions in town, county, and state government. Realtor Devon Viehman is throwing her hat in the ring for the Jackson Town Council after she narrowly lost out on a seat in 2020. Vice Mayor Arne Jorgenson has indicated that he’ll run again, according to the Jackson Hole News&Guide, but the other incumbent Jonathan Schecter has said he’s still undecided. 

Former head of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce Steve Duerr, a Republican, announced this week that he’ll challenge Democratic State Sen. Mike Gierau for his spot in Cheyenne, and Democrat State Rep. Mike Yin of Jackson kicked off his reelection bid with an announcement Monday. Another Teton County state seat, vacated by Rep. Andy Schwartz, is also up for grabs as Republican Paul Vogelheim, formerly of the Teton County Board of County Commissioners, announced his campaign last week. No Democrat has yet emerged as a challenger. 

The filing deadline for the 2022 election season is May 27.

New online dashboard for Wyoming job seekers and employers

A new online dashboard from the State of Wyoming aims to help job seekers and employers. The website matches students with trainings they may need to enter the workforce and lists opportunities within the Cowboy State’s borders. The launch is part of Gov. Mark Gordon’s plan to diversify Wyoming’s economy, which he outlined the importance of during his State of the State speech earlier this year.

“Our children leave because they don’t see long-term opportunities for employment or careers, and businesses are hesitant to relocate or expand because they’re uncertain about their future workforce. But this is changing,” Gordon said. “Our focus on economic diversification has broken this Catch-22. Wyoming kids have a work ethic that is second to none, and already new enterprises are coming, ranging from advanced nuclear to digital assets to outdoor recreation.”

Businesses can also use the Business Occupational Outlook Tool Sets (BOOTS) resources to identify potential employees, and educators can use it to see what skills are most valued by state employers.

A hopeful snowpack update

Wyoming’s snowpack statewide is at nearly 100% of median after a wet April. The local Snake Basin is up to 89% of median from about 75% two weeks ago. And with more precipitation in the forecast for the next 5-10 days, Wyoming hydrologist Jim Fahey of the Natural Resources Conservation Service said that bodes well for the rest of the water year.

“It was looking pretty dire coming into April, but now–we’re still below where we should be, but it’s a better story now. Hopefully we can continue the momentum.”

Fahey also said the extra moisture might help efforts to fill Jackson Lake–but there’s still a long way to go.

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