Property assessments in West Virginia have increased 49.5% in the last eight years -- to $86.6 billion from $57.9 billion in 2005 -- with the highest growth coming in counties that experienced natural gas development over the same period, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy (CBP).

"Wetzel, Doddridge, and Marshall County have all seen their total property assessments more than double since 2005. And what do those counties have in common? They have all seen a substantial increase in natural gas production over that same time period," policy analyst Sean O'Leary said in a CBP blog.

"In fact, of the top 10 counties with the biggest growth in assessed property values, four of them are also in the top 10 for the biggest growth in natural gas production."

The production value of natural gas isn't the only thing fueling the growth in those counties, according to O'Leary. All of the drilling equipment, trucks, pipelines and other industrial property are also assessed and taxed as personal property.

"According to these figures, nearly all of the growth in property assessments in West Virginia's gas-producing counties can be attributed to natural gas production. And that growth has had a real effect on property tax revenue in these counties. In Wetzel County, revenue from the county's regular levy increased from $2.2 million in 2005 to $6.3 million in 2013," even as the county reduced levy rates in some categories, O'Leary said.

West Virginia Senate President Jeffrey Kessler (D-Marshall) is reportedly planning to introduce a bill, possibly in the form of a constitutional amendment, during the 2014 legislative session to create a Future Fund using a portion of the state's oil and gas severance taxes (see Shale Daily, Sept. 18). Similar legislation failed in the state earlier this year (see Shale Daily, April 17). Legislators in the 2013 session did not consider raising the state's severance taxes on oil and gas, which currently stands at 5% of gross receipts (see Shale Daily, Jan. 23).

A 2011 study by the Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research found that West Virginia had more taxes and fees on natural gas production than most of the 18 other gas-producing states included in the analysis (see Shale Daily, Oct. 19, 2011).