The County Commissioners’ Association of West Virginia (CCAWV) and West Virginia Counties (WVACo) believes that county government is essential to strong state government and economy. We recognize West Virginia law that continues to work to address economic problems in West Virginia. With regard to SJR7 and a desire to consider options such as the abolition of personal property tax, there are major concerns about the future continuity of the county government.
If approved by voters, SJR7 would open up personal property so it could be defined to address the elimination of this tax. In addition, SJR7 could eliminate constitutionally protected revenue, and even if substitute revenue is included in the code, this can be changed by any future legislator. This creates a huge cloud of uncertainty for the counties.
As a reminder, the counties fund local parks, 911 centers, health departments, animal shelters, fairs and festivals, 4-H programs, inspections, solid waste authorities and libraries. We also fund the offices of other elected officials who ensure fair and equal taxation as required by state law. Hold free, fair and safe elections during the pandemic; and ensure justice through our courts and law enforcement agencies. Sheriffs are the largest departments in many counties. Sheriff’s departments answer most calls in the state. This bill could potentially disappoint law enforcement, ambulances and firefighters.
Put simply, counties are an extension of the state government. Counties rely on tax revenues for their budgets, most of which come from property taxes, including businesses and inventory. The county only gets about 27 cents for every dollar raised, as most of that taxpayers money is used to fund the public school system. This is not just about district budgets. It is also about the education and services that counties provide to every citizen of West Virginia.
Counties understand the importance of West Virginia citizens having a voice and that they want to put that decision on the ballot in the 2022 election. However, we fear that this legislation could lead to a transfer of financing responsibility by eliminating this tax revenue to citizens and their property. The possible consequences of this type of decision for the counties must be carefully considered. Although there seems to be a desire for the districts to have a “seat at the table” during these discussions, some of the measures taken in recent weeks speak volumes for the fact that the district’s contributions are actually taken into account. It appears that working groups have been created and meetings have been held on topics that directly affect the districts. To the best of our knowledge, however, we were neither invited nor participated in these meetings. Counties are important stakeholders, and their contribution is vital.
Our associations thank you for your time and consideration. Like you, we want to work to find ways to better improve the state’s business climate and keep our best and smartest. We want more people to come here to take advantage of all the amenities our state has to offer. We want progress. We just can’t sacrifice our counties to get there.
CCAWV Executive Director
WVACo Executive Director