Harrison commissioners pass gas tax resolution

CADIZ – Harrison County commissioners passed a resolution Wednesday urging the state to keep the majority of revenue from a proposed natural gas severance tax in the county where it is generated.

The county resolution states that natural gas extraction will generate substantial profits for drillers and levy heavy costs on communities, so any tax imposed by the state should be used to benefit the local government which “has had high unemployment and been in economic peril for decades without assistance from prosperous regions of the state.”

“While we agree that there should be some sort of a tax imposed on the gas industry,” said Commission Chair Don Bethel, “The only way to ensure that local governments and the citizens they represent benefit over the lifetime of natural gas extraction is to require that a small portion of the wealth created by the energy development is returned to local governments.”

“Without a mechanism in place to capture energy revenue, little to none of the wealth created by this industry remains locally,” Bethel added. “The majority of new jobs and businesses in gas field services will leave when the build-up phase ends, while the bulk of profits will accrue to the corporations and their shareholders. We learned this lesson the hard way from the coal industry.”

“Energy development has significant impacts on municipal and regional infrastructure,” commissioner Dale Norris explained. “Any tax monies generated from that energy development should remain here to offset these costs and fund economic development right here in Harrison County.”

Resolution 13-13 also mentions the increased costs incurred by law enforcement and emergency management services.

Proposed HB 59 would send 75 percent of revenues to the state in order to cut taxes for all Ohioans. The 25 percent allocated back to local government would be ear marked by the state for specific projects.

“We strongly believe we understand the needs of Harrison County better than our state leaders, as state leaders believe they know better the needs of Ohio better than our federal leaders.”

“The state already receives a majority of the increased sales tax revenues generated from shale boom,” Auditor Patrick Moore explained. “The county keeps just 1.5 percent of the 7 percent sales tax collected.”

“Harrison County citizens and government leaders have paid their dues of being poverty stricken for decades and deserve the fruits from minerals taken from their lands in lieu of funding tax breaks for the already wealthy.”

The resolution will now be sent to Governor John R. Kasich.

Lorna Bower of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency asked the board to approve a three-quarter mill property tax levy to fund a new generation 911 system which is mandated for the county.

“We do not receive any county funding for the 911 system,” Bower stated. “That should have been a part of the program when it was first implemented. It has always been a struggle to pay for 911.”

“The current telephone surcharge is insufficient to upgrade the system or implement the reverse 911,” said Bower. “I don’t know what we would do if this went down.”

“This is a safety issue for residents,” said Norris.

“Hopefully this is something the public will research,” added Bethel.

The board approved placing the levy on a future ballot.

Bower also established the Dangerous Wildlife Response Team for the county.

In other business:

Two bids were opened for the County Road 14 paving project. Shelly and Sands submitted a bid of $253,860 while Lash Paving bid $239,806. At the request of the County Engineer’s office the bids were tabled for review.

Mike Sliva was appointed to the OMEGA Revolving Loan Fund committee for a term beginning in Sept and running through August of 2016.

The board approved an increase in appropriations for the DJFS Children’s Service Fund of $150,000.

Approved agreement 49-13 with Utica East Midstream for a pipeline crossing in North Township which will cross the bike path.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com