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Natural gas producer overtakes coal as biggest property taxpayer in Sevier

Richfield Reaper associate editor

The Sevier County Commission adopted a tentative 2012 budget Monday that reflects a good year for growth, said Sevier County Commissioner Gary Mason.

Mason said the biggest shock that came during the budgeting process was the realization that Wolverine Gas and Oil has overtaken the Sufco mine as the largest property taxpayer in the county.

"We didn't see it coming that fast," Mason said. He said the valuations for Wolverine have grown as its oil field east of Sigurd has developed. The growth of Wolverine helped spur an approximate $150,000 increase in collected property taxes.

"Overall it was a pretty good year for us," Mason said. He said the county commission approved a 1.5 percent increase in wages for county employees, plus 28 cents an hour.

"If you average it out, it's a 3 percent increase," Mason said. He said the reason it was split was because if it was based entirely on percentage, the employees who earn the most would get the biggest benefit, while those who need the most would get the smallest raises.

Mason said the federal payment in lieu of taxes and Secure Rural Schools funding have also helped the county hold the line on its budget for 2012.

Another pleasant surprise came from an item that was approved at the last minute - a $3.5 million federal grant, said Steve Wall, county clerk.

Accounting for the federal grant pushes the county's budget from last year's total of $12.6 million to $16.9 million this year - a 25 percent increase.

However, the federal grant is a one-time infusion that is to be used for flood mitigation projects along the Sevier River, Wall said. The federally funded mitigation projects are slated for 2012.

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