Oil And Natural Gas Downturn Hurting Western Kansas Counties

Lower energy prices benefiting consumers at gasoline pumps have hit oil and natural gas producing counties in western Kansas particularly hard.

The extended declines are forcing counties to cut spending or increase property tax levies just as the state is ending an aid program meant to insulate them in such times.

The State Department of Revenue said oil and gas property values declined an average of 52 percent this year. Sixteen western Kansas counties saw their total property values decrease more than 20 percent, crimping their ability to collect local tax revenues due to the lower property valuations.

Kansas created a trust fund in 2005, and set aside taxes collected from oil and gas production for counties to tap when the industry experiences a downturn in pricing. Legislators halted the program in 2014, and the final payments to counties were made earlier this month.