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Values hold steady despite mineral woes

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, July 27, 2013

The certified tax roll released Friday for Wise County shows overall values up less than one percent.

That’s actually good news, given mineral values dropped 13.4 percent from last year’s levels.

Minerals – mostly oil, gas, rock and sand – went from $2.5 billion to $2.2 billion on the county’s property tax base, mostly due to declining natural gas prices and production.

Real property, land and improvements or “sticks and bricks” according to Chief Appraiser Mickey Hand, makes up 41 percent of the county’s taxable value at $2.9 billion – up 2.8 percent.

Industrial and utility properties, which include power lines, pipelines and equipment, rose a healthy 11.3 percent and make up 22.7 percent of the total, with a value of $1.6 billion.

Personal property – business inventory, furniture, fixtures and equipment – rose the most, 30.4 percent, but makes up the smallest chunk of the total at 5.7 percent with only $417 million in value.

Still, what’s in and under the ground accounts for more than 30 percent of the taxable value in the county.

A couple of school districts – Alvord ISD and Slidell ISD – bucked the trend of declining mineral values, showing huge gains to their tax bases.

Alvord ISD’s taxable values are up 22.5 percent overall, thanks to a 46 percent gain in mineral values. Minerals now make up 38 percent of the tax base in the Wise County portion of the school district.

In Slidell ISD – which also extends outside Wise County – mineral values jumped 82 percent and now make up almost half of the tax base, which grows this year from $158 million to $263 million. That’s a 66 percent bump.

Chief Appraiser Mickey Hand said the difference for those districts is the type of gas that’s produced.

“NGL – natural gas liquids – is a big thing,” he said. “It’s making that gas production still viable in some areas. It’s weird how those formations lay.”

He also noted that state funding formulas tend to take away windfalls from school districts and prop up those with low values.

“The schools don’t worry about these numbers so much anymore because the state kind of equalizes it,” he said. “But your county and the cities get a little concerned.”

The city of Rhome takes the biggest hit with the 2013-14 values, as they will see a 14 percent drop. Most of that, Hand said, is also minerals.

For most of the rest, this year’s values are within a few percent of last year’s.

The only real exception to that is the city of Chico, which saw a 6.7 percent overall drop after mineral values fell 58 percent.

Most of the entities that are partially in Wise County – parts of the city of Fort Worth as well as Azle, Jacksboro, Krum, Northwest, Poolville and Springtown ISDs – also saw declining values for their Wise County properties.

Ironically Bridgeport ISD, where Devon Energy has its Barnett Shale district office, has the smallest percentage of minerals in the county. Only 8.75 percent of Bridgeport ISD’s property values come from minerals, compared to 45 percent in Boyd ISD, 34 percent in Decatur ISD and 26 percent in Paradise ISD. Chico gets 14 percent of its value from minerals.

But Bridgeport has that Devon office and huge gas processing plant. They are one reason real estate at 44 percent and industrial/utility property at 41 percent make up the lion’s share of the tax base.

Hand said that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Those aren’t going away any time soon,” he said. “Some of these places, there’s a huge dependency on minerals, and that always brings up the question, ‘What if this stuff goes away?’

“This year it’s off, countywide, but we’ve been fortunate over the years that these liquids are still here. The processing plants are still here, and there’s probably still some holes to be punched, even in the old Boonsville Bend, someday.”

The certified tax roll now goes to cities, school districts, the county and other entities and allows them to plan their budgets for the coming year. Most will plug in a tax rate and begin the budget cycle of hearings and public notices in August.

The fiscal year for most entities starts Oct. 1.

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