MONTROSE, SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – For the third year in a row, counties and communities across northeastern and central Pennsylvania will see less impact fee money from natural gas drillers.
Not everyone is surprised and upset.
If you’ve driven by the Susquehanna County courthouse in the last year, there’s no doubt you have noticed all of the construction.
A huge renovation project like that would normally increase taxes but because commissioners used impact fee money from natural gas drilling there was not a direct tax hike.
From the year 2016, state officials just announced Susquehanna County will get $4.8 million in impact fee revenue.
That is about $500,000 less than the year before but the news doesn’t surprise commissioner Alan Hall.
“It would always be better to be twice as much, of course, we could do a lot more but it is a sign of the times that it is going down,” Commissioner Hall said.
In Jessup Township, supervisors used to have to borrow money to make payroll by the end of the year.
For the last six years, impact fee money has changed everything.
“We’ve purchased a new grater, a new loader, new equipment, we’ve roofed our buildings, painted our buildings,” supervisor Dennis Bunnell said.
Even though more well pads are still being built in Jessup Township, this community will also see less money coming in.
Bunnell just hopes state lawmakers don’t eliminate the impact fee program in order to impose a severance tax.
“For (Governor) Wolf to change that structure, I would be sad. I would be sad because I think this is where the money should be,” Bunnell said.
Many leaders in the northern tier say they’ve never used the impact fee money to meet daily expenses because they knew the amounts would change annually and eventually go down.
In Susquehanna County, the next big project commissioners want to use money for is the creation of a new 911 facility along with the help of state and federal grants.
“We’ll also back-fill and use the impact fee money to help build that so that we never have to raise taxes and we don’t have to borrow any money,” Commissioner Hall said.
In 2016, the total impact fee money from gas drilling wells came in at roughly $173 million.
That is an eight-percent drop from 2015.