Dip in DOLA funds concerns Moffat County officials

DOLA direct distributions

Federal mineral leases:

2010:

Moffat County — $1,146,199

Craig — $989,030

Dinosaur — $50,347

2009:

Moffat County — $1,133,884

Craig — $1,107,760

Dinosaur — $46,011

Severance tax:

2010:

Moffat County — $323,177

Craig — $273,619

Dinosaur — $24,466

2009:

Moffat County — $935,124

Craig — $875,860

Dinosaur — $70,127

When Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers heard the Department of Local Affairs was accepting applications for its energy impact assistance grant program earlier in the summer, he said he knew exactly what was going to happen.

“We knew this was all smoke and mirrors, saying they were going to have one,” he said of the DOLA grant cycle.

At the end of July, the Moffat County Commission applied for two DOLA grants for road improvements to Moffat County Road 107 and Ninth Street.

The commission requested $613,680 for County Road 107 improvements and $131,576.50 for Ninth Street improvements.

However, on Aug. 23, DOLA announced the energy impact grant fund would be suspended through June 2011, Moffat County Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber said.

The energy impact funds are made up of portions of taxes from federal mineral leases and severance tax money, Gerber said. Portions of the funds collected are re-distributed to local entities to fund projects aimed at offsetting impacts from the energy industry.

The grant suspension didn’t come as a surprise to Mathers.

“We knew it was coming simply because the governor used that money last year to try to balance the budget,” he said. “We knew they were in just as much trouble this year trying to balance their budget as they were last year.”

But, the county still applied for the two grants “just in case we were wrong,” Mathers said.

Moffat County hasn’t received any DOLA grant money for two years, Gerber said.

But, Mathers is also concerned about other DOLA news.

Recently released federal mineral lease taxes and severance tax direct distributions to Moffat County, Craig and Dinosaur from the state took a dip from last year.

Moffat County received $611,947 less in severance tax distribution this year. In 2009, the county received $935,124 — a number that dipped to $323,177 this year.

In 2009, Moffat County saw one of the highest returns on severance tax because of the oil and gas drilling and production in 2008, Gerber said.

Craig received $602,241 less in severance tax distribution this year. In 2009, the city received $875,860, which fell to $273,619 this year.

Federal mineral lease tax distribution for the county remained steady this year, gaining $12,315. In 2009, the county received $1,133,884, and it received $1,146,199 this year.

Gerber said the federal mineral lease tax money was slightly up because the production was comparable to last year and other “weight factors” didn’t change much.

Craig lost $118,730 in federal mineral lease tax money. It received $1,107,760 last year and $989,030 this year.

Considering the lack of grants and shortfalls in severance taxes, commissioner Audrey Danner said the county would have to readjust its budget.

“My concern is that it has to come from the local counties, because there is nowhere else to turn at this point,” she said. “We will just have to adjust our budgets accordingly with these new figures, and we will.”

Danner said it is difficult at times to understand the loss of the DOLA assistance funds because they were generated in the county.

“We cannot count on those,” she said. “That is difficult budgeting without those numbers that we have had for years.”

Mathers said he is frustrated by the lack of grants and the decrease in severance tax distribution.

“We have some highways that need a lot of work done to them,” he said. “Our parking lots are in disarray, and we could use some help because we don’t have enough capital money to get all that done ourselves.”

Mathers is skeptical about the future of DOLA funding and the energy impact grants.

“The DOLA funds that we have been used to getting through the grant cycle, after two years of not getting them, with the budget being the way it is and the economy being so tough, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went away forever,” he said. “That wouldn’t surprise me in the least.”

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