Energy taxes distributed to local boards

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RBC I Local governing bodies received word last week about the money they would receive from direct distributions from severance tax and federal mineral lease funds.
However, how long those funds will continue — at least at recent levels — is uncertain.
“I am pleased that the distribution to the counties and its towns came out above my projections,” said Ken Parsons of Rangely, chairman of the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners and a member of the state’s Energy and Mineral Impact Advisory Committee.
School districts on both ends of the county also received energy revenue funds through the direct-distribution program.
The Department of Local Affairs announced last week that $37 million in energy revenue funds would go to counties, municipalities and school districts in Colorado.
In severance tax distributions, the town of Meeker will receive $131,745, the town of Rangely $188,258 and Rio Blanco County $351,363.
In federal mineral lease distributions, the Rangely School District will receive $143,291, the Meeker School District $203,294, the town of Meeker will receive $862,396, the town of Rangely, $1,123,505 and Rio Blanco County $2,099,241.
Parsons expressed concern about the state dipping into the energy funds to boost its own budget problems.
“Local governments are feeling the pinch every bit as much as the state government does,” Parsons told the Grand Junction Sentinel.
Meeker Town Manager Sharon Day was pleasantly surprised, too, by the distribution amounts.
“It will definitely help because sales tax (revenue) continues to spiral downward, and there was a question about whether there was going to be very much in the fund to distribute,” Day said. “We had actually budgeted nothing. We usually use (distribution funds) for capital projects. We don’t count on it for operation and maintenance. (The funds) will be put toward capital projects for next year.”
The energy funds are important to local governments, said Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius.
“Direct distributions from severance and federal mineral lease have for a number of years provided the backbone of our infrastructure improvement program in Rangely,” Brixius said. “In 2010, grant awards have been unavailable through energy impact funding and the governor just announced that the grant program would not be funded through 2011.
“The town has traditionally relied on and budgeted direct distribution dollars as part of our revenue stream in lieu of the fact that revenues from sources like sales tax and property taxes is not sufficient to cover our infrastructure needs,” Brixius said. “Overall energy impact funding is a vital source for our citizens as we work to maintain our services. Many communities are now having to resort to grant and loan funding through USDA Rural Development and the state’s revolving fund, which are both heavily subsidized with ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) money. These programs come with many strings attached and cause a good deal more expense in the development of applications and required preliminary engineering reports in order to qualify. The town of Rangely has been looking for alternatives that would not require accumulating more debt obligation, but these options are few.”