Lower Oil, Gas Prices Hit Some Kansas County Budgets Hard

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

It’s forcing counties to cut spending or increase property tax levies just as the state is ending an aid program meant to insulate them.

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 raise local tax revenues.

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 bad downturn. But legislators in 2014 halted the program, and the last payments to counties were made earlier this month.