When it comes to the value of natural gas, wetter is better.
That, in a nutshell, is why tax values in Alvord ISD are up 25 percent this year and values in Slidell ISD are up a whopping 58 percent.
Wise County Chief Appraiser Mickey Hand released the preliminary numbers over the weekend. Appraisal Review Board hearings will begin next week and likely continue through mid-July.
Cities, school districts, the county and other entities will get final numbers around July 20 – the figures they can use to set their tax rates this fall.
Overall, values in Wise County stand at almost $7.2 billion – a decrease of just under three-quarters of 1 percent. While real estate values were up, mineral values dropped.
“Overall in the county, the minerals are down 9.25 percent,” Hand said. “Part of the reason is that we have some wet gas and some dry gas here.”
Hand explained that “dry” gas, mostly in the eastern and southern areas of the county, is simply worth a lot less than gas with liquids in it – the kind found mostly up through the middle of the county, around Alvord, and in the Slidell area.
“There are some oily liquids in there, and oil’s real valuable right now,” he said. “It makes the numbers look kind of squirrely because of the fact that you’ve got some minerals down some places and some minerals up some places.”
There are about $329 million worth of new minerals on the tax rolls this year – new wells that have come on-line – helping offset the loss in value from the decline in both reserves and prices.
“It could have been worse,” Hand said. “Last year we had about $228 million worth of new wells. So we’ve still got new production coming on-line, but it’s better in the areas where the natural gas liquids are pretty rich.”
The news for most taxing entities was not nearly as good as in the Alvord and Slidell school districts, but most declines were limited to the low single-digits.
City of Decatur values stood at almost $580 million, a decrease of 2.14 percent, and Decatur ISD values were $2.243 billion, down 2.9 percent. Mineral values in DISD were down 11.24 percent.
Bridgeport ISD was up 1.8 percent, Paradise ISD was up 1.7 percent, and the cities of Aurora, Boyd and Paradise all showed small valuation increases.
Values in the City of Rhome were down 14.3 percent, with a 30-percent drop in mineral values.
In Alvord ISD, by contrast, the gain in minerals was 64 percent. But real estate (just over 3 percent), business personal property (23 percent) and industrial and utility property (13 percent) were all up, too, en route to a 25 percent overall gain.
In Slidell ISD, real estate was up just 2.6 percent and business personal property was down 16.5 percent, but that was more than offset by an 84.8 percent gain in minerals and a 90 percent gain in industrial and utility.
Bridgeport ISD gained almost 2 percent, but most other cities and school districts lost value.
Hand notes that real estate values for most school districts are up 2 or 3 percent, citing more than $22 million in new construction in Decatur ISD and $70.5 million in the county overall.
“What caused the general trend to be down is the fact that minerals have dropped in some areas,” he said.
And in some areas where the numbers are “off the chart,” he noted that values were very low to begin with.
“If you’ve got a dollar and it goes to $2, that’s 200 percent,” he said.
The Clear Creek Water District is a good example, where business personal property values are up 416 percent.
“They had a total of $13,000 before, and now they’ve got $70,000,” Hand said. “There wasn’t much there to start with.”
While new construction – $7.1 million in the City of Decatur and almost $3.2 million in the City of Bridgeport – has an impact, it is miniscule compared to oil and gas.
“We appraise about 210,000 parcels of property, and out of that, about 150,000 is mineral parcels we contract out,” Hand said. “Mineral [appraisal] is a little more specialized.”
And although most of the county’s taxing entities are subject to the whims of energy values, most would rather have them than do without.
“We’ve got a lot of mineral value,” Hand said. “Minerals are still good here. We just rode that wave where we were having double-digit mineral gains every year for a long time, and now we’ve had some single-digit decreases. It kind of changes the complexion.”
The district is required by law to reappraise every parcel at least every three years.