With signs outside the United Nations climate summit reading “Keep the Oil in the Ground,” there’s a breath of fresh air from the local scene in Colorado’s most active oil and gas county.
Weld County has some news: A debt-free balance sheet and a fresh U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that it had the highest increase in employment in the nation between March 2013 and March 2014. Many things are up in Weld County, including real estate value, building permits, employment rate (way up!), personal income and tax revenues. The only thing going down is tax rates on its citizens.
Oil and gas is now responsible for 63% of the county’s tax base, according to the county.
The Fort Lupton Press reported that during the Aug. 25 meeting of the Weld County Commissioners, County Assessor Chris Woodruff said that “the county’s assessed values jumped from about $7.10 billion in 2013 to $9.13 billion for 2014, a 28-percent increase. According to county data, that boost is largely attributable to higher preliminary assessed values related to oil and gas operations across Weld County, which jumped from about $3.90 billion in 2013 to more than $5.74 billion in 2014 — a 47.18-percent increase.”
Independent exploration and production companies like Anadarko Petroleum (ticker: APC), Noble energy (ticker: NBL), Synergy Resources (ticker: SYRG), Bill Barrett Corp. (ticker: BBG), Bonanza Creek Energy (ticker: BCEI) and other companies spending billions to develop the Niobrara and Codell shales in the Wattenberg Field, accounted for 55 percent of the county’s tax base in 2013. “… with the growth in 2014, that figure has risen to 63 percent,” the report said.
Weld County enjoyed a jobs gain of 7.5% over the 12 months, the BLS said, compared with national job growth of 1.7%, with the largest employment increase in natural resources and mining, which gained 2,145 jobs over the year, a gain of 24.1%.
Don Warden, the county’s interim director of finance and budget manager, said “because property valuations continue to go up, and the county charter limits property tax revenue increases from year-to-year to 5 percent, the county’s share of the mill levy will go down by 1.004 mills, or $16 on a $200,000 home,” according to a report in the Greeley Tribune. “Under the Colorado Constitution, Weld is authorized to impose a maximum mill levy of 22.457. However, the county has not imposed that maximum. The new mill levy for 2015 will be 15.8.”
In 2009 the county decided not to grow the size of government with its oil and gas revenue. Instead, the county chose to save its funds and invest the money in one-off capital improvement projects, including $8 million in technology upgrades, a $40 million expansion to the Weld County jail and a $100 million expansion of Weld County Road 49, the Tribune said.
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