Figures finalized Monday say the county’s assessed valuation, which serves as the property tax base, shrunk by about 3 percent in 2012. The valuation dropped from $898.9 million in 2011 to a new value of $872.8 million.
“We’re up from (2010), down from (2011), but still holding our own,” said Park County Assessor Pat Meyer.
Park County’s local governments collected more than $67.75 million in property taxes last year. If the mill levies are left the same as last year, the decrease in the valuation will mean roughly $2 million less for those schools, municipalities, fire departments, hospitals and other taxing entities.
A weaker market for oil and natural gas was the primary culprit in the assessed valuation’s drop from the previous year. Because minerals are assessed at a rate about 10 times that of residential, agricultural and commercial properties, they make up about 58 percent of the county’s property tax base.
Assessor’s office data says the value of the oil produced and sold from Park County fields in 2012 dipped about 4.6 percent from the prior year, to a new total of $487.8 million.
Producers in Park County actually extracted about 3 percent more oil than the previous year, harvesting nearly 7.2 million barrels and they also sold more barrels.
“There’s more things going on out there,” Meyer said of the uptick in production. “That’s a different trend. That’s really good news.”
However, the average selling price per barrel fell from $73.17 to $67.20.
“Production isn’t the problem, it’s price,” Meyer said, adding, “Every time the gas price at the pump goes down, it just slows our valuation.”
Meanwhile, the value of the natural gas extracted in Park County and sold plummeted some 37 percent from the prior year. The value of local gas sunk to $20.3 million, representing a more than $12 million decline from the prior year. A combination of lower production and prices spurred the decline.
Companies produced 10.87 million Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) of natural gas in 2012 and sold 7.99 million Mcf. That represented a roughly 13 percent decrease in production and sales, while the average price per Mcf also dropped from $3.55 to $2.54.
Meyer said Park County is fortunate that natural gas, which has a widely fluctuating market, makes up a relatively small part of the tax base.
“We didn’t get hurt too bad,” he said.
It was the Meeteetse area’s oil and gas fields that brought on the bulk of the overall decline in the county’s assessed value. While the value of the property and minerals within the Meeteetse School District’s boundaries fell about 8.5 percent, the Powell and Cody school districts stayed pretty steady.
In contrast to the falling mineral values, the overall value of the homes, businesses and infrastructure in Park County actually increased by about 3 percent from last year.
Meyer attributed the bump in local properties primarily to new construction.
The local real estate market did pick up in 2012, though homebuyers didn’t pay as much. A total of 303 homes changed hands last year — 24 more than had in the year before. However, the average selling price dropped about 3 percent, to $219,075; Meyer said there can many reasons for that kind of decline.
“They (homes) are holding their value pretty well,” he said. “We’re starting to see some pick-up in the market out there.”
The assessed valuation, which serves as the base for property taxes, is made up of 100 percent of mineral values and 9.5 percent of the market value of each piece of residential, agricultural and commercial property; industrial properties are assessed at a 11 percent rate. Local governments ranging from school districts to municipalities to hospital and fire districts then set the property tax rates, called mill levies. The entities’ individual levies are then added up and applied to the property’s assessed value to determine the taxes owed.
About 60 percent of Park County residents’ property taxes went to K-12 education last year.