Increased oil production could mean lower property tax

Daniel Walker
Vernon Record
Precertified taxable values have been made available to the county’s taxing entities, and they show tax rates could go down. The Wilbarger County Appraisal District sent the preliminary data to each entity on April 29.
During June’s Vernon College board of trustees meeting, college president Dr. Dusty Johnston presented an update on next year’s budgeting process using the numbers. He said they were still about $90,000 from having next year’s budget balanced. It includes a 1.5 percent step pay increase for employees and predicts a 2.5 percent reduction in tuition and fees as the usual precaution.
The big news, Johnston said, was that the precertified property tax values looked good and the effective tax rate could go down by about 2 cents per $100 valuation.
Trustee Bob Ferguson said that was a lot and asked if a two cents reduction was right.
“It caught us by surprise,” Johnston said, adding it looked like mineral values were the driving force, up a projected $138 million in the taxing area, from the current certified value of $708,823,310. “They will set the final (values) in July.”
“What does 2 cents give us?” Ferguson asked.
Johnston said, the two cents would raise about $220,000 in additional funds, but the college probably couldn’t keep the same rate and take that increase due to tax increase caps. He added that in 12 months, with the projected AEP closing, it could swing back the other way. He said they would be looking at the scenarios to bring back to the board prior to adopting a budget and tax rate later this summer.
The college’s certified value last year was $1.160 billion last year.
Vernon College, Wilbarger General and Wilbarger County are all looking at roughly the same increase in mineral value, though each has different taxable values due to PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements with various windfarms. The four school districts, Vernon, Northside, Harrold and Chillicothe are also looking at gains from mineral values – particularly due to the increase in the oil price and production.
However, Chief Appraiser Sandy Burkett, in her memo to the entities, cautioned the numbers were estimates only and would probably fluctuate.
“It is not only possible, but highly likely that they will change prior to my actual certification of appraised values this coming July. As of this date, no protests to the appraisal review board have been heard. Those protests can result in lower values. Further our appraiser may be persuaded to modify vales. Or further value may be discovered,” Burkett wrote. “In view of the uncertainty of the values which I forwarded to you, I strongly encourage you to make very conservative assumptions regarding these values when making your budget planning. While I have no way of knowing what the ultimate value totals will be, I would reduce these estimated values when making your financial assumptions.”
The City of Vernon also received a preliminary value of $416,362,603 combined real and mineral for M&O taxation. The certified value last year was $407 million and $400 million the year before that.
City Manager Marty Mangum said the city’s value was not as greatly impacted by minerals as the other entities and he expected a modest increase in property values in the city when the values are certified.

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