Assessed value drops below $1B again

Mar 22, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A rebound to $1.09 billion is predicted for fiscal year 2015.

Fremont County government expects lower property tax income next fiscal year because low natural gas prices pushed down the local assessed value.

A rebound in the tax base is expected, however.

County Assessor Tara Berg, Treasurer Scott Harnsberger and deputy treasurer Jim Massman brought economic projections detailing the change to the March 12 meeting of the Fremont Count Commission.

"We anticipate the total assessed value will decrease by 6.5 percent to $951 million for the fiscal year 2014," Massman said.

The preliminary number is for fiscal year 2014, which covers July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014.

The assessed value for fiscal year 2013 was $1.016 billion.

This year's numbers translate into an estimate of about $8.5 million in property taxes for the county in fiscal year 2014, down from $9.4 million in the current one.

Harnsberger said the upcoming year's lower assessed value is primarily due to the lower value of natural gas production.

Massman said the value of gas production went down from $314 million this fiscal year to $185 million in the coming one, and the value of oil production went up from $292 million to $341 million.

Both moves were more due to the change in price for the commodity more than volumes produced going up or down, Massman said.

A chart from the Treasurer's office predicts the price of natural gas in fiscal year 2014 will be down 13 percent from the current fiscal year -- to $3.35 per 1,000 cubic feet -- and the volume sold will decrease 16 percent, to 104 billion cubic feet.

The coming fiscal year marks a new balance in the industries contributing to the county's valuation.

"Historically natural gas has been more significant than oil production," Massman said. "(But) this current year, they're very close in value, and we anticipate next year oil production value to be greater than natural gas value."

Future looks brighter

The future of the county's revenue is brighter beyond the coming fiscal year.

A memo from the Assessor and Treasurer stated they expect the county's assessed value to increase for fiscal year 2015 by 7.2 percent to $1.019 billion. The Treasurer's Office further predicts the assessed value to increase by almost $100 million in the three following years.

For Fremont County's budget, those figures are projected to mean $9.1 million in property taxes for fiscal year 2015 and just shy of $10 million for fiscal year 2018 -- or a 15 percent increase over five years.

Harnsberger said revenue for fiscal year 2014 is based on mineral production during the 2012 calendar year. The assessor determines the value of 2012 production once the year ends, the state certifies that evaluation in June 2013, and the county receives the taxes on that production for fiscal year 2014.

Because the production already took place, officials can have an accurate idea of the tax revenue they will see from it. The numbers presented to the county board are from the Assessor's and Treasurer's offices and could change before the state certifies them.

"The actual assessed value may differ significantly from the projected amounts," Massman said. "Before you complete your budget process you will know your actual numbers, this is just to give you something to base your planning on."

Property taxes are important to the budget because they constitute about 35 percent of the county's income. The commission will write the county budget for fiscal year 2014 in the next few weeks.

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