A May 13 article reporting on a ‘press conference’ that said $11.5 million generated last year from natural gas production in the Town of Smyrna will be handed over to officials presented misleading and factually incorrect information.
Gas production may have generated $11.5 million, but that is revenue for Norse Energy, not Chenango County, the Town of Smyrna, or Sherburne-Earlville [School District]. No amount of money was “handed over” to anyone during the orchestrated gas drilling promotional presentation, nor will any money be turned over to any of the noted entities (Town of Smyrna, Chenango County, or the Sherburne-Earlville School District) at any time in the future.
While Norse Energy will pay roughly the amounts stated in taxes(Smyrna, $83,312; Chenango County, $151,019; and Sherburne-Earlville School District, $264,569) the implication, and likely the perception of many of your readers, is that the Town, County, and School District will receive an unexpected windfall. These entities (school, town, county) annually develop a budget and determine the tax levy based on their budget. Only the amount of the levy will be collected from taxpayers, no more, no less. Based on the stated $11.5 million revenue this year for Norse Energy, they will pay only about 4 percent of that in local taxes. While this is a benefit to other local taxpayers, it does not increase revenues for the district, the town, or the county.
The expansion in gas drilling, particularly the hydro-fracturing technique proposed for extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation (which is really what that show was all about), is not without controversy. The financial benefits of drilling versus the cost in the environment will be the subject of debate for some time to come. The handing out of over-sized fake checks may be good theater, but participating in the show implies endorsement of drilling and contributes to the false perception of windfall revenue for schools, towns and counties. Our Board of Education has made no such endorsement, and I’m sure the issue will be extensively debated in that forum before consensus is reached.
Sherburne-Earlville Central Schools