CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Soaring gas production fueled a 37 percent increase in Wyoming's minerals valuation this year and pushed Sublette County past Campbell County as the state's wealthiest for minerals, according to the Wyoming Department of Revenue.
The state's minerals valuation rose from $10.9 billion last year to $14.9 billion this year.
Sublette County leads with $4 billion in assessed minerals value, followed by Campbell County at more than $3.5 billion and Sweetwater County at slightly less than $2 billion. At the bottom of the list is Goshen County, at just $21,800.
About 80 percent of the local property tax revenues go to public schools. But while the state constitution ensures that local funds from wealthy areas are redistributed for schools in poorer ones, no such provision exists to equalize funding for other local governmental entities.
"We're very poor here. Compared to the rest of the state, it's incredible," said Tom Wasserburger, a Niobrara County commissioner.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal said the State Loan and Investment Board is trying to set up separate pots of money so the poorest counties don't have to compete with the richer ones for money. At the same time, there is a sense of urgency to help areas dealing with the effects of booming gas development, such as increased crime and traffic.
"If you get sewage running down the streets of Pinedale, you have to do something," he said.
Most of the money the Legislature allocated this year for local grants through the State Loan and Investment Board is targeted at counties affected by minerals development. Those are also the richest counties, pointed out Goshen County Commissioner Lloyd Peterson.
"When you sit out here as one of the 15 counties scraping to get by, we don't understand why the state needs to spend so much in the six or eight counties that have so much," Peterson said.
Officials in the counties where rapid mineral development is occurring argue that they need to address the effects of that development before the tax revenue starts flowing.