By J.W. JOHNSON JR.
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. - Marshall County is undergoing a transformation, evidenced by a property value increase of nearly $1 billion in just two years.
Most of that increased value is being driven by the natural gas boom, as several new processing plants have been built in the county
During a special session of the Marshall County Commission in late January in which members sat as a Board of Review and Equalization, county Assessor Chris Kessler outlined the anticipated $577.2 million increase in assessed values for the 2013 tax year. Coupling that increase with 2012's $335 million increase, Kessler said the county is experiencing something "extraordinary."
Kessler indicated once the public utility values are provided by the West Virginia Tax Department, total taxable assessed value of all property in Marshall County is expected to be about $2.7 billion. With tax exempt property added, Marshall County will have a total assessed value of slightly less than $3 billion, doubling what it was in 2007.
Kessler said the natural gas industry is the main reason for the increase, as new construction at processing and fractionation facilities continues and new wells and pipelines are installed on a monthly basis. As that infrastructure is installed, it allows companies to begin production, resulting in new taxes on the minerals, as well as taxed royalty payments for lease holders.
However, Kessler was quick to note that for the first four years of the increase, investments made in coal mines and preparation plants increased values in a large way. He said that trend continued for 2013, and he doesn't anticipate it changing anytime soon.
Despite dramatic increases in assessed Class III, or industrial property, values, Kessler said Class II property, which is designated as owner-occupied residential property, declined for the first time since 1993. He said he believes the decrease is "a blip on the radar" reflecting the national housing slowdown and not a long-term trend.
"Ten years ago, we didn't see the housing boom like other areas, and I don't think we will see the (crash), either," he said.
Kessler said it is important to remember there is lag time in assessments, with sales and construction activity between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 being analyzed for the 2013 tax year.