While the numbers have not yet been certified by the state, Park County Assessor Doug Brandt said his estimates show a net county worth of roughly $1,009,000,000. That would be a 30 percent jump from last year's valuation of about $779 …
Call it the boom before the storm.Preliminary estimates say that Park County's assessed valuation for 2008 is up to more than $1 billion — the highest value ever.
While the numbers have not yet been certified by the state, Park County Assessor Doug Brandt said his estimates show a net county worth of roughly $1,009,000,000. That would be a 30 percent jump from last year's valuation of about $779 million.
The county's value is used to determine how much money local governmental entities can demand in property taxes; the higher the worth of the county, the more money potentially available.
But while that can allow for greater governmental spending this year, Brandt has a word of caution for bodies putting together their 2009-10 budgets.
“Don't get started on a project that's not a one-time purchase,” he said.
That's because next year, the valuation is projected to drop — perhaps 40 percent or more.
As energy consumers can likely attest, mineral values — including oil and gas — hit historic highs across Wyoming and the globe in early 2008. They have since plummeted.
County Commissioner Dave Burke has described it as a freight train coming down the tracks.
“The difference in revenue between production year 2008 and 2009 is going to be a severe shock,” warned Wyoming Department of Revenue Director Ed Schmidt last month. “Obviously, it would be prudent to begin planning now for the impact the reduced revenues will have beginning in 2010-2011.”
Brandt said this year's jump in value is mostly a result of increased mineral value.
For instance, county wells yielded 210,000 more barrels of oil in 2008 than they did in 2007 — a total of about 8,419,000 barrels. Meanwhile, the average price for Park County oil rose to $46.60 a barrel — up from $42.93 in 2007, said Brandt.
If you're wondering why Park County's ‘08 oil prices weren't closer to the $100 a barrel rates all over the news, Brandt said that's because this area's oil isn't light, sweet oil.
“Ours is heavy crude — real thick,” he said, meaning that it's harder to pipe.
“We haven't got that good sweet oil you hear going for $140 a barrel down in Texas,” said Brandt. “We don't get anything near that (top price) — never have.”
Over the last several decades, oil production has slowed. In 1970, there were more than three times as many barrels being pumped out of Park County, said Brandt.
While there is essentially no new oil development, Brandt said natural gas production has picked up outside Clark, with Windsor's controversial sites, as well as near Whistle Creek, southeast of Powell, and areas north of Powell.
The $290 million jump to $1 billion has only little to do with increased locally assessed value — such as houses, businesses, ag land, equipment and personal property.
In recent years, around half of the county's annual growth has come from those areas.
However, in 2008, local property value — which includes new construction as well as existing homes — grew only about 6 percent, or $20 million in 2008, said Brandt.
Home values here have bucked the national trend and stayed pretty steady, he said, though the market on higher-priced housing has tightened up.
Using last year's average mill levy of 72.8 mills, a $1 billion valuation would mean $73.4 million in Park County property taxes — money that goes to the school districts, cemeteries, hospitals, fire districts, county government and cities.
That would mean $16.7 million more for local governments than last year.
However, Brandt notes that a higher valuation doesn't have to mean increased taxes. When the value goes up, boards still can choose to ask for fewer mills.
“This is really a time for people to be aware of what they (public boards) are going to do with this windfall,” he said. “Where they (taxes) are going to go up is at those board meetings.”