This doesn’t mean, of course, that there will be a lot of extra money to throw around. That $5.8 million will be divided into many pieces that will go to numerous entities, including three municipalities, three school districts, the county and …
The 11 percent increase in Park County’s assessed property valuation announced this week is generally a positive development.
The increased valuation means that, without raising tax rates even one mill, property tax revenue in the county will rise by $5.8 million, which will help the county, towns, fire departments and other taxing entities in the county maintain their services.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that there will be a lot of extra money to throw around. That $5.8 million will be divided into many pieces that will go to numerous entities, including three municipalities, three school districts, the county and numerous districts and boards. But it will at least provide a little boost to efforts to balance the budgets.
That extra $5.8 million is almost entirely due to an increase in the value of our mineral resources, and it should remind us of just how important oil, coal, gas and other minerals are in keeping our individual taxes low.
Only seven states have lower average sales tax rates, for example, including five which have no sales tax at all.
One of those with no sales tax is, of course, neighboring Montana — but Montanans do pay an income tax, which we don’t in Wyoming. Residents in only six other states have that good fortune.
We also have one of the lowest property tax rates in the nation as a percent of home value. Our rates are two-thirds what Montanans pay, for example, and less than half the rate homeowners pay in our neighbor states to the east, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. Texans pay three times what we do on owner occupied homes.
(The above figures are taken from the website mymoneyblog.com which attributes them to the Tax Foundation.)
What this all means is that we get much more in government services than we actually pay for individually. For example, three new schools and an addition to a fourth in Powell have been built or are under construction, funded mostly with money generated by coal leases. Only a small part of the cost came from taxes on individuals in Powell.
There are, of course trade-offs, and all of us are aware of one of them. The increase in valuation of minerals is directly related to the energy market, and the same force that created that extra $5.8 million has also pushed the price of gasoline close to $4 per gallon, putting pressure on family budgets. Fluctuations in those prices also give Wyoming its notorious “boom and bust” economy that periodically causes economic distress.
There are also environmental costs. Air quality has suffered from energy development in Sublette County, for example, and water quality may be compromised by some of the advanced techniques for producing oil and gas. Strip mining gobbles up land once occupied by ranches and farms, and towns and cities sometimes have to cope with rapid growth that puts pressure on schools, law enforcement, and other services.
Development also compromises, and sometimes destroys, the scenery and open spaces that support wildlife, provide recreation and that draws others to visit the state.
The nation needs energy, and Wyoming needs the benefits of energy development to support the way we live. But we need to be aware that there are costs to that development, and at times they may outweigh the benefits. We need to find a balance between development and the preservation of the other resources that make Wyoming what it is.
Either way we will be making sacrifices, because, as the old saw says, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”