Marshall County Gas Tax Jumps by $358,000

Marshall County’s share of oil and gas severance tax revenue has increased by more than $358,000 during the past three years, but none of that money will be used to work on roads, county officials said.

Marshall County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Knuth’s idea is to use the severance money to help the state Division of Highways District 6 repair roads in the county, but Commissioner Brian Schambach disagreed with the notion. Knuth said in addition to harsh winter weather, the roads have taken a beating from extra truck traffic brought on by the oil and gas industry.

Schambach said state roads are not the county’s responsibility, but he would be willing to act as a liaison between the gas companies and concerned residents regarding the matter. He also said the county does not have enough funding to cover the cost of repairing or constructing roads.

County Administrator Betsy Frohnapfel said gas severance funds have continued to increase since fiscal 2011 when the county received $71,161.

In fiscal 2012, the amount jumped to $236,643. And in fiscal 2013, the county received $429,810.

The money, she said, is used for a variety of projects.

“Every year in March, as per West Virginia State Code, a review of all the requests from elected officials and outside entities is completed. Necessary capital improvements (such as a new roof for the courthouse, elevator upgrades, windows and reconstruction of steps), capital purchases (such as voting machines, computer software and hardware, electronic storage systems) and special projects (such as new buildings, renovations to existing buildings, slip repairs on county owned property) are also reviewed,” she said.

“These items, among others, are taken into consideration when the budget is prepared. The majority of our budget goes to running the daily operations of county government, including public safety. There is also money budgeted every year for contributions to community groups.”

Frohnapfel said that during the 1930s the state of West Virginia gave the responsibility of the roads to the state Department of Transportation.

“The county is responsible for or assisting with other infrastructure issues, such as waterline extensions and sewage lines extensions. The commission spearheads the economic development initiative for the county. They fund most of the agencies in the county that provide services to residents that make Marshall County such a nice place to live,” she said, using Grand Vue Park, volunteer fire departments, the animal shelter, the health department and the public library as examples. “The state is responsible for road maintenance.”

Frohnapfel said the county does not yet know the amount of gas severance funds it will receive for 2014.

“The state does not release those funds to us until the end of the fiscal year; usually the 29th of June. Because the increase in this revenue source is relatively new, the commissioners budget it very conservatively. This year $125,000 was budgeted. … Because of the increase in property valuations the commissioners have been able to lower the levy rates five of the past eight years. The levy rates are determined on property valuations, not outside revenue,” she said.

Knuth said previously he was a “strong believer in taking care of our own with the idea of contributing something to help the state with our road system.”

“It’s a shame that more of the tax revenues generated through the gas reserves here in Marshall County cannot be put back into the county,” Knuth said.