Release from CCAWV and WVACo:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — CCAWV and WVACo believe county government is essential to a strong state government and economy. We acknowledge the West Virginia Legislature as it continues to work to address economic issues in West Virginia. Regarding SJR7, and the desire to explore options such as elimination of personal property tax, there are major concerns when it comes to the future continuity of county government.
If approved by voters, SJR7 would open up personal property so that it could be defined in order to address eliminating this tax. In addition, SJR7 could eliminate constitutionally protected revenues and even if replacement revenues are put in code, that can be changed by any future legislature. This creates a great cloud of uncertainty for counties.
As a reminder, counties provide funding for local parks, 911 centers, health departments, animal shelters, fairs and festivals, 4-H programs, inspections, solid waste authorities and libraries. We also fund other elected official’s offices that ensure fair and equal taxation as state law demands; run free, fair and safe elections during the pandemic; and provide justice through our courts and law enforcement. Sheriffs are the biggest departments in many counties. Sheriff departments answer the most calls in the state. This bill could potentially defund law enforcement, ambulances, and fire service.
Simply put, counties are an extension of state government. Counties rely on tax revenue for their budgets, which mostly comes from property taxes, including business and inventory. The county only receives about 27 cents for every dollar collected, because most of that tax money is used to fund the public school system. This is not just about county budgets. This is also about education and services that counties provide to every citizen of West Virginia.
Counties do understand the importance of the citizens of West Virginia having a voice and the desire to put this decision on the ballot in the 2022 election. However, we are concerned that this legislation could result in a transfer of the responsibility of funding through elimination of these tax revenues on to citizens and their property. There needs to be careful consideration of the possible consequences of this type of decision on counties. Although there appears to be a desire for counties to have a “seat at the table” during these discussions, some of the actions over the past few weeks speak volumes to the actual consideration of county input. It appears that workgroups have been created and meeting addressing issues that directly affect counties, but to our knowledge we were not invited nor involved in these meetings. Counties are key stakeholders and their input 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 brightest. We want more people to come here for all of the amenities our state has to offer. We want progress. We just cannot sacrifice our counties to get there.