Shale Development Leads to Haul In Sales Tax For Ohio Valley Counties

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Officials in Belmont, Monroe, Harrison and Jefferson counties saw their total sales tax revenues jump by more than $21 million during the five years of the Marcellus and Utica shale boom, according to an industry-backed group.

Officials with Washington, D.C.-based Energy In Depth said counties with drilling and fracking realized about a 65-percent increase, on average, in sales tax revenue from fiscal years 2011 to 2015. During this time period, companies have spent billions of dollars for drilling rights, as well as pipeline and processing infrastructure.

“It really is all about the shale,” Monroe County Auditor Pandora Neuhart said. “It starts with the abstractors, then it goes to the drillers, the frackers, the truckers, the pipeliners. They are all here because of the shale.”

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources shows Consol Energy’s “Brewster” well in Monroe County produced 1.62 billion cubic feet of natural gas during the second quarter this year, making it the most productive well in the entire Buckeye State.

Energy In Depth data show Monroe County’s sales tax collections rose approximately $5.23 million from 2011-15. Although the county has struggled in many areas during this time frame — notably with the loss of 1,000 jobs due to the closure of Ormet’s aluminum smelter in 2013 — Neuhart said the shale industry provides a significant boost for the county coffers.

“We have been able to make some improvements to the courthouse,” she said. “We have also given some money to the Monroe County Care Center to keep it going.”

That center lost certification in July 2015 due to problems concerning nursing and the distribution of medicines, which resulted in the center losing its ability to receive Medicare/Medicaid payments in November. This resulted in a massive loss of funding, and the facility is in the process of getting recertified.

In Belmont County, the data show sales tax collections jumped $7.22 million during the five years studied. Numerous new hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses have opened in the county during the last five years.

“The bottom line is this: The energy renaissance that has happened in the Marcellus and the Utica shale–that is what has brought Ohio back, in my opinion,” Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said.

In Harrison County, the sales tax increase over five years is $3.7 million.

“It has been a tremendous boost for us,” County Auditor Patrick Moore said. “I have been in office for 29 years. For my first 25 years or so, we were lucky to finish a year in the black. Now, we are able to do things that need done.”

Moore said county officials used some of the money for needed repairs at the courthouse in Cadiz. For much of the last five years, the block across the street from the courthouse was quite busy in the daytime, as abstractors working at the courthouse would stop at one of the restaurants for lunch, while drillers and frackers heading out into the fields would be among the breakfast crowds.

“Our restaurants, hardware stores, grocery stores, you name it. They’ve all gotten a big shot in the arm from this,” Moore added.

Energy In Depth also shows Jefferson County’s sales tax grew by $3.98 million in the last five years, as the shale industry provided a boost to the Fort Steuben Mall and the surrounding retail establishments.

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