School districts across the country have begun to take advantage of the shale beneath their feet, which has created increased revenues that flow right into classrooms. These new revenues are responsible for keeping taxes low and creating new opportunities for students.
This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where school districts have signed leases to tap into the shale beneath their buildings. This development has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in leasing bonuses and royalties.
According to a recent Observer Reporter article:
“Bentworth School District has been very fortunate. We have not had to furlough any teachers throughout all these cuts, if the lease hadn’t been signed, the district definitely would have looked at furlough, raising taxes – all of the above.” – Scott Martin, Superintendent of Bentworth School District
California Area School District had similar results from leasing school property, stating:
“It helped us at the time because of the number of cuts that were taking place in the state budget.” – Superintendent Brian Jackson
Money from Marcellus Shale development has been used to lower school taxes and give students more opportunities in the classroom.
Energy in Depth recently sat down with Elk Lake School District Superintendent, William Bush, who signed a lease with Cabot Oil & Gas and now has two wells on school property. Superintendent Bush told EID that the school has received upwards of $2 million from the leasing bonus and royalties. He continued,
“The revenue has helped with our budget, maintenance projects, much needed new roofing and helped create new programs for the students. Without the lease money there were certainly projects that we wouldn’t have been able to do. One of the biggest things to come out of the royalties and leasing bonus was the career center addition which we wouldn’t have been able to do without the increase in revenue. The career center has been great for these kids we offer programs that they’re actually interested in.”
Besides benefitting students, taxpayers and parents also benefit:
“For a number of years we’ve been able to without increasing our school taxes, which has certainly been contributed to the gas money. It’s been a real plus to the taxpayers, parents and people in the community. We’ve been very fortunate.”
Superintendent Bush went on to say:
“During the development of the wells we had no issues. There were some environmental groups trying to claim that we had issues with water and those kinds of things. I got calls from attorneys around the country, primarily in New York who wanted to know all the bad things and I just told them I don’t really have anything bad to say. The district pulls water from three wells and we have never had a problem with the water supply.”
With shrinking school budgets it’s important for schools to seek any and all opportunities to give their students the chance to succeed and it’s clear that shale development has helped.
Knowing the vast benefits of development hasn’t stopped school districts from doing their due diligence either. A Southwestern Pennsylvania school was concerned about air emissions during development so they commissioned a company called ChemRisk to monitor air quality during the hydraulic fracturing and flaring of a well 2,700 feet from the school property. From the Chemrisk report:
“The results of the fracking and flaring sampling periods were similar to the results obtained from the baseline monitoring period and likewise, did not show anything remarkable with respect to chemicals detected in the ambient air. When volatile compounds were detected, they were consistent with background levels measured at the school and in other areas in Washington County. Furthermore, a basic yet conservative screening level evaluation shows that the detected volatile compounds were below health-protective levels.” (Emphasis added)
It’s great to see school districts taking advantage of something that has been a blessing for residents throughout the Commonwealth. This industry is creating new opportunities here in Pennsylvania and has allowed high school and college graduates to earn family-sustaining wages without having to leave the state.