County Assessor Anticipates $3.2 Million Decline in Upcoming Budget

County Assessor Anticipates $3.2 Million Decline in Upcoming Budget

SWEETWATER COUNTY – The upcoming Sweetwater County budget will have about $3.2 million less in mill levy funding than it has this year according to Sweetwater County Assessor Dave Divis.

The drop in revenue comes from a decrease in the county’s total assessed valuation, which Divis said will be approximately $2.4 billion and represents a decline of about $268 million. For minerals alone, the estimated value is $1.5 billion, down from $2.03 billion last year. Divis said much of the decline is due to reductions in the value of oil and gas.

“Oil and gas has just gone down significantly,” Divis said.

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Counties receive their funding from mill levies, which is generated from taxes based on the assessed value of property and, for Sweetwater County, the value of the minerals extracted from the county.

While the county expects a decline from the current budget year to the 2024-2025 year, revenue remains higher than it was following the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the county’s revenues were $23.7 million, while in 2022 they were $29.6 million. The 2023 budget year, which end June 30, saw revenues of $35.4 million, with the 2024 budget year anticipated to be around $32.2 million.

Divis said value does not determine cash flow for the county but said the county should start looking at the mineral valuation like how sales tax is viewed.

Divis said that reasoning comes from a change in state law that changed how mineral taxes are paid. Originally, the mineral values would be calculated and paid using the certified mineral valuations from the prior calendar year, but according to Divis, where were some problems with that process. Because companies were required to pay their taxes based on a prior year, company closures could make it difficult for counties to recover owed mineral taxes. Divis said the Wyoming Legislature changed how those taxes were collected, resulting in mineral taxes being taken in monthly. The change helped as far as ensuring mineral taxes were collected in a way that wouldn’t be impacted by a business closure, but Divis said there are concerns about special tax districts throughout the state that may get themselves into fiscal problems.

Divis said the payments special districts received are estimated payments and when new mill levies are set in August, a board might reduce their levy due to a large amount of reserves it has on hand. If that occurs, he said the estimated payments would be calculated using that higher levy and when a “true up” is done at the end of the year to balance payments with the actual taxes due, that district may end up having to refund money to the county.

Not everything is set yet. The final part of the valuation Divis is waiting for is the assessed utility values, which he will update the commissioners on when those amounts are finalized.

“These values are as solid as they can be at this point,” Divis told the Sweetwater County commissioners.

Board Chairman Keaton West said the county was initially anticipating a $2 million decline in revenue before the more recent calculation was completed.