View Full Version : Open meeting with State Legislators
There will be a joint meeting of several Jefferson County Democratic organizations at 8:00PM on Monday December 19th at Avanti's Restaurant in Charles Town.
The County's Democratic Party representatives to the West Virginia State Legislature expressed an interest in having this meeting to provide a preview of what we can expect from the upcoming session of the legislature and to find out what concerns Jefferson County citizens have that they might help with. State Senator Unger and Delegates John Doyle, Locke Wysong, and Bob Tabb have all been invited to attend.
This meeting is open to all citizens of Jefferson County.
12-04-2005, 12:43 PM
Buried in another category, I suggest getting a commitment from Half-a-Dozen folks from the Mountain to attend this meeting armed with a list of issues to present to the legislators as well as to speak out at the meeting. The start of a list follows-post additions and I'll add them. Try to keep it focused on issues in which the State can help- No barking dogs, loud parties, etc.
1) Inadequate roadways for proper emergency service
a - Second (or third exit, entrance for Emergency services vehicles)
b - Fire roads on DNR property (and perhaps places with more than 20 acres, like Rolling Ridge?)
c - Wider intersections with better brush and drainage ditch maintenance on regular roads for both improved line of sight, and also better turning radius for emergency services vehicles like fire trucks (and also things like Waste Management, and moving vans.)
2) The woeful lack of sufficient Law Enforcement on a routine basis
a) Locality Pay
b) Funding realistically linked to rate of growth
3) Ditto recreational facilities for our Mountain Residents
a) DNR buying Lake Shannondale
b) An ATV Park?
c) An indoor facility for year-round use
d) More river access points
e) A soccer field
f) Re-establish rifle range on WMA property
4) A warning system for evacuations and catastrophes
5) Halting the clear-cutting of building lots on steep sloped land.
6) A centrally located Fire/LE/Recreational Bldg
7) Litter/Solid Waste Collection
8) Insufficient or questionable oversight of individual sewage disposal system installations may be polluting our streams and river.
9) The rafting/watercraft rental businesses are trashing the river. Is any agency providing adequate regulation(and do those out-of-State businesses pay fees to launch and collect patrons at our public river access areas?)
12-04-2005, 07:14 PM
1a - Second (or third exit, entrance for Emergency services vehicles)
1b - Fire roads on DNR property (and perhaps places with more than 20 acres, like Rolling Ridge?)
1c - Wider intersections with better brush and drainage ditch maintenance on regular roads for both improved line of sight, and also better turning radius for emergency services vehicles like fire trucks (and also things like Waste Management, and moving vans.)
(Or if you want to really start a discussion,
#8 - repeal Dillion Rule and give local government more authority (and responsibility))
12-04-2005, 09:04 PM
I'd like to see the rifle range opened back up, either under DNR auspices or turned over to a community-based organization. I'd even be willing to head the project up as I've done that sort of work before. So if the state will give us the range--and if some others here want to help--I'm willing to put the time and effort in to make it usable for Shannondale residents.
12-05-2005, 11:21 AM
Jeez, I lived above a rifle range in Pennsylvania. - It was not fun. Where was the range located in Shannondale? And if reopened, I assume it would be in the same place?
Also - below - another reason to attend the meeting on Dec. 19th with the legislators in Charlestown. Article from Frday's Journal about growth.
Lawmaker: Plan for growth By TIM DOYLE, Journal Staff Writer
MARTINSBURG - The three counties of the Eastern Panhandle need to develop a plan for the continued future growth of Washington, D.C., the West Virginia Senate Finance Committee's chairman said Thursday in Martinsburg.
"Without a plan, we're not going to like what we see," said state Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas.
"We need a structure because Washington is not going to stop growing," said Helmick, whose nine-county district includes all of Morgan County and part of Berkeley County.
The continued growth of the United States population means the continued growth of the government in Washington, the finance committee chairman said during an appearance on a Martinsburg radio program.
"Washington's growth will continue to force its way into West Virginia's three easternmost counties," Helmick said.
"The growth is going to happen and we need an infrastructure plan for all 756 square miles and all 144,000 people in these three counties," the veteran legislator said on the WRNR AM radio show "Eastern Panhandle Talk."
The United States population grew by 14 million over the last four years, and it is likely to increase by 30 million by the year 2010, Helmick added.
From 2000 to 2004, West Virginia's population grew by 8,000 people while the three-county Eastern Panhandle's population grew by 20,000 people, he said.
Because other parts of the state are losing so much population, the State of West Virginia has the second lowest growth rate in the United States, Helmick said.
Nevertheless, Berkeley County soon will become the second largest county in West Virginia, he said.
Political power in West Virginia has shifted to the Eastern Panhandle because the chairmen of both the state senate and house of delegates finance committees now live in the greater Eastern Panhandle region, Helmick said.
"If you took the government out of Charleston, Kanawha County would be devastated because it's already lost its chemical and coal industries,"" the state senator said, adding there are 134 elected members of the West Virginia Legislature and 432 registered lobbyists working in the state capital of Charleston.
West Virginia has 38,000 state employees and a population of 1.8 million people, Helmick told his radio talk show listeners.
Helmick said he was visiting Berkeley County because his wife, as the chief judge of West Virginia's new workers compensation system, was holding a meeting of local workers compensation judges in Martinsburg.
A 19-year veteran of the West Virginia Legislature, Helmick shares the state senate's 15th district with a newcomer, State Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph.
12-05-2005, 03:58 PM
Dear State Legislators,
Please ban the annual collection of personal property taxes for vehicles. I don't mind paying it once but on a continuous basis ... just doesn't make sense - I still don't understand the exact process other than at some point evevryone must make a pilgrimage to the Charles Town Tax Office to write a check. The state should encourage folks to buy new and safe vehicles rather than ride old clunkers. It sure would help the state with it's image problem. I recommend using the vice-money from the track to pay for the delta!
Oh, ... and could you write a bill that will expand and standardize the size of parking spaces. I've got way too many dings and dents on my vehicle.
12-05-2005, 04:19 PM
Well if we're working onm a wish list, I want to see legislation that seriously punishes employers who knowingly or carelessly hire illegal immigrants in WV and this area in particular. If they can't find jobs here, they won't come and the gang culture, alcohol problems and crime-rate increases will not follow tham.
12-05-2005, 04:40 PM
I do have a serious comment. ROADS. Into and out of the Jefferson County!
I believe the Route 9 Bridge DOES NEED TO GO FORTH! Also,
you giys need to work with the Jefferson and Brunswick a four-lane road (two lanes for each direction) needs to be constructed through or under the South Mountain spine to somwhere on Route 9 in Jefferson County just north of Charles Town.
12-05-2005, 04:47 PM
... something went amiss on my keyboard.
(... you guys need to work with the Maryland folks to build a road between 340 and route 9 - through or under (i.e. a tunnel) south mountain. The bridges are creating dangerous bottle-necks!!!)
12-05-2005, 04:47 PM
The rifle range was located at the bottom (dip section) of Lower Clubhouse (Gate 2), just prior to Mission Road, off on th right side. There used to be a pond there as well, I don't know if it's still there or not.
12-05-2005, 07:36 PM
It is Xmas season, but.... Let's keep our suggestions in line with an AA slogan I learned some years back- KISS, or Keep It Simple Stupid. We'll pass on the "Chicken in every Pot"(a campaign promise by Herbert Hoover), coupled with "a Car in every Garage" wish list. So no Chippendale in every woman's stocking and no year's pass to Divas for every guy.
Seriously, give us some constructive suggestions. Election year is coming and we have the opportunity to show some muscle. Let's keep it simple AND realistic.E.g. better recreational facilities, indoor and out for our youth. We can work on the specifics later. The same with roadways. We need better access for emergency services and better egress, details to follow.
BTW, Str1ker, you're right and wrong. After the old shooting range was closed(it was at the far end of Moonshine Lane, well into what is now the WMA), there was a short-lived range set up at the old and now non-existant skating pond. The houses on Conifer Court and increased traffic effectively ended that effort in the late 1980's.
12-05-2005, 09:04 PM
hhehehhehehe ROCK I won on both accounts! :) hehehehheheh
TY For the clear up Willis :)
I am inviting anyone interested to attend a meeting at our house in John Brown's Farm this Sunday afternoon at 4:00 to discuss these issues and to meet with County Commission candidate Frances Morgan.
There have been some really good ideas expressed on this board. We have serious problems that we will need county government help with in addition to those that will require legislation at the state level. Frances is more interested in knowing what we have to say right now than in giving any campaign speeches, and I am personally interested in learning more about some of the things that have been brought up here.
Please email me at [email protected]
12-07-2005, 10:17 PM
Hey, what about the developement on the mountain? I've seen drain fields being put in right next to these small mt runs that go straight to the river. What about all the clear cutting of land? They just planted a ton of trees on Cattail Run Road to help with the run off going to the river, but allow them to keep ripping the mt apart and letting the run off go to the river. Isn't WV supposed to be helping the Bay clean up? This river is extremely polluted. We fish a lot and the fish are in bad shape. They are all covered with bloody sores. What about all the trash from these river rafters? What gives Maryland Outfitters the right to use are public taxpaying boat ramps? We used to own a river lot and we spent every weekend for 3 years on the river. We've watched people dumped the sewage out of campers, burn tires and throw them in the river...well , you name it and we've seen it.
What can be done about them filling in hollers and building houses? The house next to us was built about 10 years ago on a lot where all the water in the neighbor runs. We've watched it steadily sink in the middle. It was just sold, AGAIN, and the new owners have spent a fortune in drainage problems and keeping the house from sinking anymore. The worst part is, now all the water runs towards another neighbors house.
Can we get the old 'dale rules back in affect? These "barbie doll" houses are sooooo out of place with all the original unique log and wood homes.
Work keeps us extemely busy this time of the year, but I will do everything in my power to attend this meeting. John, can I show up at your house unannounced?
12-08-2005, 12:04 AM
I think I can speak for John tb when I say you'll be welcome. I'll try to distill some of your concerns into items on the list-general rather than specific- If you can think of a better way to say them, post and I'll change them. And try to set aside the 19th for attending the "actual" meeting. btw, though this is a meeting with "Democratic" legislators, most of the issues we face everyday on the Mountain are apolitical. All citizens are welcomed!!
12-08-2005, 08:04 AM
quote:Originally posted by Willis
btw, though this is a meeting with "Democratic" legislators, most of the issues we face everyday on the Mountain are apolitical. All citizens are welcomed!!
Which perhaps raises the question of access to the "Republican" elected representatives, since I know on at the county level, Jane Tabb is expected to run for re-election and on the federal level we also have Ms Capito.
A reasonable outcome for these meeting will hopefully be a summary position paper that can be either forwarded to others or used as talking points for live discussions.
Semi-related thought, the county budget discussions will be starting up again in January, creating an opportunity for specific requests that are viewed as representative of the mountain.
(Yes Willis, I agree we should not let this grow into an effort to boil the ocean, and need keep it focused. I'm just thinking that there will be multiple opportunities to use a reference sheet.)
I hope that you can make it, even for just a short while. You have had a lot to say on the board and I am certain we would miss your perspective if you can?t come.
I would like to emphasize that this ?pre meeting?, or mountain political planning session is not limited to Democrats. The issues that we all seem most concerned with do not break out along traditional party lines. Even at the State level it is not easy to apply national party stereotypes to West Virginians, and at the local level the party designation is even less a factor.
Four of our five representatives to the State Legislature are Democrats, and I am very much a West Virginia Democrat myself, so the meeting on the 19th is appropriately a meeting with the Democratic Party Delegation. As far as Sunday goes I am not going to be checking any party cards at the door, so all Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians and Socialists are certainly welcome. Even Aliens if they turn off their music before coming over.
This is not to say that I won?t as usual have plenty of voter registration forms available. I am willing to discuss broader political issues at another time and in a different forum. The problems that we need to address here on the mountain and in Jefferson County will not be helped by splitting us up along traditional party lines.
We all chose to live here, and so share a huge common interest over people who faced with the same choices picked Leesburg, Frederick, or Charles Town.
12-08-2005, 09:30 AM
Tony R., you're correct as usual. It seems to be a classic place for use of the phrase "We don't have to reinvent the wheel". The paper or summary sheet(talking points) that we develop would be applicable to Republicans, Democrats and politicians of other persuasions, as well. Some issues might be best addressed not only by State legislators but local officials (and I suppose Federal) as well. I noted that several weeks ago there was a Republican forum held in Berkeley County. Does anyone know if one is planned for Jefferson?
12-10-2005, 08:33 PM
Yeepee! It snowed!! My husband and I have been disgussing what is most important to us and we've made a list for Sunday. We've been spending this evening doing a lot of research on our topics , getting our facts straight and typing a nice letter. We are hoping to be there tomorrow, if for only a little while. But we will leave our typed suggestions behind. We're just two dumb hillbillies ready to stand up for what we believe in and do we what we can to save this lovely Mother Earth from distruction. We moved to the 'dale because of the love we have of nature. We are tired of watching it be distroyed.
12-10-2005, 09:18 PM
I would like to attend tomorrow and sent you an email explaining that I cannot be there untill after 5:00, but I never received directions. Can you please forward me directions to your house? Thanks!
We look forward to your participation! Directions are on the way via email.
If we have time, I would like to add these to our list for discussion:
Support Senator Unger's bottle bill anti litter law
Increase local govt control over Public Service Districts
Enable local governments to pass "Adequate Public Facilities" laws
12-11-2005, 10:02 AM
If I had my druthers, John, I'd like to concentrate on the issues that [u]directly</u> affect us- The last three are certainly germane, but the first three, while having significant long term impacts on the State(and us'ins), aren't an [u]immediate</u> concern in my priority list.
Good point and I certainly agree.
The planning session was very successful. We were joined by County Commission candidate Frances Morgan. We divided the list into State issues and County issues, and then organized the State issues into 4 areas that will be presented at the meeting next Monday by Tony Rosati. Everyone is encouraged to attend that meeting to support Tony and to show that we all share these concerns.
1. DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES -
- Local contract for fire helecopter
- Maintenence of fire trails and roads
- Availability of State funds for purchase of Lake Shannondale
- Local meeting with DNR and citizens to update and discuss
2. LOCALITY PAY -
The entire delegation has been working hard on this and we want to express our support for the idea and ask to be kept involved.
3. SOLID WASTE COMPETITION
4. DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS - Eastern Panhandle office status, request more attention to drainage and runoff during work on roads on the mountain.
Remaining issues, many of which we found to be very important, were determined to be County problems best addressed locally. We did discuss various ways of approaching them and we can post about these later.
12-17-2005, 06:58 AM
First,thank all of you for responding to my concerns in "drive home."
Second, in briefing over the "Open Meeting with State Legislators," Dec. 19, notices, there is a query. I can't find the topic covering adquate road service in Shannondale in winter weather. Will that fit under "Inadequate roadways for proper emergency service" or will it be an independent topic under something like Adopt A Highway. Since this meeting apparently covers all of Jefferson County, it appears discussions specific to Shannondale's interests will have to be limited in time, and oh so appropriately spoken. It looks like you all have done a fine job in preparation there. You are to be congratulated on and thanked for your hard work. Third, my experience in attending such meetings, in particularly with Mr. Spirow T. Agnew when he was our delegate to Baltimore County in Maryland has left me with an appreciative understanding of their pros and cons. With this sense of understanding I will make every possible effort to attend the meeting and be an honorable representative of Shannondale. I will attend with hope in hand and be relatively quiet, letting those who prepared the topics do the talking--that is, of course, unless my Irish gets up. Hope to see all of you there, and again thank you.
12-17-2005, 09:13 AM
MW, first, thanks for showing interest in getting involved. Shannondale and Beyond is still a fledgling in political matters but we're trying our best to become players in the "game". You're right about limited time. We've appointed and Tony Rosati has graciously accepted to be our Spokesperson. To make sure our concerns are heard, we've distilled them down to the basics. If we get into particulars, it may resemble what I've heard of the Tower of Babel.
Certainly the ingress and egress of emergency vehicles is a high priority and we're trying to address that with Locality Pay for trained personnel at the State level(These guys are STATE legislators) leaving matters at the County level for a different venue. The matter of road maintenance(snow removal, ice treatment, potholes, etc.) will most likely be addressed as a sidebar to the above mentioned incentives to retain experienced employees and the the item you mention, better access for emergency services.
John has been the driving force behind this effort and if I've misrepresented his views, I'm sure he'll respond. We're hoping to impress these guys with a show of strength in numbers, and a "voice spoken in one tongue". My own plan of action during the meeting is to be present an listen! There's an old saying in the AA Program: "It is often productive to take the cotton out of your ears and place it in your mouth" (or something to that effect).
12-17-2005, 06:00 PM
I will do my best to present our concerns and relate them to state level issues and focus.
quote:Originally posted by Willis
We're hoping to impress these guys with a show of strength in numbers, and a "voice spoken in one tongue". My own plan of action during the meeting is to be present an listen! There's an old saying in the AA Program: "It is often productive to take the cotton out of your ears and place it in your mouth" (or something to that effect).
Part of what we did discuss and want to encourage, is non-verbal participation as a show of support for points being raised (actually by anyone who happens to raise one of our topics).
As an example, we know the issue of locality pay is not a new one and may be raised by others specifically discussing teachers, or law enforcement. This means heads nodding in agreement (not sleeping! [:0] ) to reinforce that comments being made are important to many in the region as a whole and not just one individual or subdivision.
(Personally I've also thought that the occasional applause doesn't hurt, but standing on your chair and giving a cheer might be a bit excessive [B)] ...)
So, if St1ker wants to bring the band, or MW wants to bring the choir, the more the merrier. ;)
12-17-2005, 10:41 PM
If anyone can give me a ride I'd be greatly appreciative. I'm a short distance off Mission Rd near Gate 4.
I will gladly give you and anyone else who needs one a ride to the meeting tomorrow. My car is not very large, so we may have to "borrow" one of the currently under utilized Waste Management trucks.
12-18-2005, 11:14 PM
That gives new meaning to "Compact Vehicle".
12-20-2005, 01:37 PM
FYI, here is the full text that was delivered, in writing, to the state delegates (and a couple county commissioners and other interested parties)at the meeting last night. Due to limited time we did not go into great detail on every topic but they were briefly discussed. (I believe John and T are working on a meeting summary?)
[u]Eastern Jefferson County (Shannondale and beyond) State level issues</u>
Clearly, a primary responsibility for any level of government is to protect its citizens. Many of the items below directly bear on the health and safety of the general public.
[u]I. Department of Natural Resources:</u>
A local meeting with our State delegation and DNR personnel to discuss these and other issues with local citizens would be ideal.
A. Local fire helicopter contract: The recent fire in the Shannondale Springs Wildlife Management area burned over 150 acres. Fire fighters from [u]four states </u> did a remarkable job under difficult access circumstances. A key tool for our local firefighters was the helicopter which was hired and flown in from Pennsylvania. The State contract with a helicopter firm in Logan County for use in fighting fires would have taken many hours for to reach Jefferson County. We would like our State delegation to discuss with DNR, the possibility of an additional contract with a local helicopter firm to provide faster service. This could include the possibility of using the [u]Air National Guard </u> as a backup to that private contractor, perhaps in cooperation with both the [u]Appalachian Trail </u> and [u]Harpers Ferry National Park</u>. If the wind had been blowing stronger on the day of the fire we would have needed more than the one unit and we would have needed it faster.
B. Fire roads maintenance: Access into the WMA was very difficult, and this delayed efforts to reach the fire. We would like to know what maintenance plans DNR has in place for making certain that fire roads are kept open for emergency vehicles. We understand the desire to control ATVs but a balance is required.
C. State purchase of Lake: We are interested in knowing what funding may be available from the State for a purchase of the privately owned Lake Shannondale for use as a public park and to protect the lake as a critical source of water in the event of fire.
D. Hunting oversight: Firearms continue to be used in close proximity to homes. Are there any plans to improve the enforcement of existing hunting laws? Is there an option to perhaps train other law enforcement officials in the area to operate as associate game wardens and give them a discount on hunting licenses or other incentives?
[u]II. LOCALITY PAY</u>:
We understand that Senator Unger, Delegate Doyle, Delegate Tabb, and Delegate Wysong have all been working hard to get "locality pay", or cost of living allowances for our State Police, teachers, DNR, DMV, Health Department, and Department of Highways personnel. We want to express our appreciation for these efforts and offer any additional support that may be needed. [u]Reduced employee turnover creates improved operational efficiencies both in training and day to day activities.</u> These savings could be used to allow more competitive compensation packages. Other options should also be explored for improving retention such as reduced prices for state licenses or fees.
We are aware that the State has many competing interests and we are willing to email, call or send letters whenever our delegation thinks it might be helpful.
[u]III. STATUS OF DEPT OF HIGHWAYS EASTERN PANHANDLE OFFICE:</u>
An eastern panhandle Department of Highways office would allow better planning and better supervision of DOH projects. Roads on the Blue Ridge have drainage requirements that are not always well planned, resulting in unnecessary erosion damage which costs more to repair. Better planning and more attention to drainage and runoff might help the DOH stretch the under funded maintenance budget.
[u]IV. SOLID WASTE COMPETITION:</u>
We feel that we would get better service if there was open competition between firms offering trash pickup. What is the current status of this and if state legislation is necessary to allow it, will that be on the agenda for the upcoming session?
12-22-2005, 02:22 PM
Sorry it took a while to put together a summary of the State Legislators meeting from Monday night. (We got bogged down in the triple threat - Kids, Chrismas, and Clients!)
* We had a great turnout of citizens that live on the Blue Ridge. Two of the four delegates actually commented on the how many "Mountain" people were there. Of the total 60+ citizens that attended the meeting, I would say that close to 20 of us were there.
We were definetely noticed!
Senator Unger, Delegates Doyle, Tabb and Wysong each made opening remarks about what they expect to be discussing in the 2006 legislative session. Lowering the sales tax on food, eliminating the business franchise tax, and state and locality pay are all high on the agenda.
Since the meeting began late, there was not a lot of time left for Q&A. Thankfully, Tony jumped right up and was first to present our issues (see his post above). He did a terrific job and got some initial feedback from the delegates.
* fire helicoptor - Del Wysong commented that sharing resources with Potomac Highlands Counties might be the way to get state support on this.
* fire road maint. - Sen. Unger agreed that a meeting with DNR as soon as possible would be the way to approach this. He will get back to us on this after the first of the year.
* State purchase of Shannondale Lake - Del. Doyle was very interested in this because there is no state park east of Cacapon. He said he would push for it if enough people in the county want it.
* Locality Pay - Sen. Unger said that last year they accomplished locality pay for DOH , but not for teachers or troopers. This is very much on the minds of all of our reps. and they will be working on it in this next session.
* DOH - The Caperton Train Station office will be opened soon and should help relieve Eastern Panhandle problems with road maintenance. The locality pay increase for DOH employees is very recent, and we are not yet seeing the results. DOH is still understaffed ( down by at least two employees) and , as we know,the recent snow/ice storms has really underscored the problem. They have two one-ton trucks that are specifically for use on the mountain, but did not have personnel to drive on the night of the ice storm.
There was discussion about State vs. Jefferson County goals, perceptions and priorities that was interesting and bears repeating every time we talk about these important topics. We were also reminded of the complexity that Coal interests in the southern part of the State brings to state politics. Coal money has dominated politcs for many years and is now being challenged by economic development and growth in the Eastern Panhandle. Don Blankenship, the chairman of Massey Energy, has targeted our delegation for defeat in 2006 in an attempt to maintain control of the Legislature. His goal is to eliminate the coal severence tax ( millions of dollars for WV) and I doubt he cares WHERE or HOW WV would make that up.
After the meeting was adjourned, Sen. Unger, the Delegates and Commisioners Surkamp and Manuel all stayed to chat , answer questions and generally be available to everyone who came to the meeting. It was a great opportunity to talk one on one with our legislators -
However, it will take more persistent communication from all of us to keep the momentum going.
NEXT STEPS - DNR meeting To be Announced
We will monitor the 2006 Session and our delegation to watch for our issues to be raised and post here with anything info we get.
Call or write to our Delegation
Senator John Unger
Home Address: P.O.Box 2415
Martinsburg WV 25402
Home Phone 263-5488
Bus. Phone 285-4477
Capitol Phone (304) 357-7933
Senator John Yoder
Home Address: P.O. Box 940
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
Home Phone 535-6842
Del. John Doyle
Home Address : P.O. Box 1607
Shepherdstown WV 25443
Home Phone 876-6472
Bus. Phone 876-1648
Capitol Phone (304) 340-3280
Del. Bob Tabb
Home Address 1885 Darke Lane
Kearneysville WV 25430
Home Phone 728-2214
Bus. Phone 725-1252
Capitol Phone (304) 340-3274
Del. Locke Wysong
Home Address P.O. Box 772
Charles Town, WV 25414
Home Phone 728-6027
Capitol Phone (304) 340-3135
Governor Joe Manchin
1900 Kanawha Blvd E.
Charleston, WV 25305
12-23-2005, 09:22 AM
Another topic that was discussed at this meeting. While Rusty was not at the meeting with the state rep's, this gives a good sense of the material that was covered.
W.Va. lawmakers propose tax relief
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Local state lawmakers are looking at a number of ways to give residents possible relief from skyrocketing property tax bills.
Earlier this year, local residents complained to county officials about their property tax bills, some of which had increased by 100 percent.
Much of the tax increases are being driven by the increase in the value of homes in the Eastern Panhandle and some residents and officials are concerned how the taxes are affecting people on fixed incomes.
Jefferson County Commission President Rusty Morgan said officials have discussed changing the homestead exemption to get relief for taxpayers.
Taxpayers 65 and older are eligible for a $20,000 reduction in the valuation of their homes. The valuation is used to determine the amount of tax a homeowner pays.
But the exemption gives little benefit to taxpayers given the high values of homes in the area, Morgan said.
Morgan did not mention any specific numbers for a new exemption.
"Fifty thousand dollars has been thrown out as a quick fix," Morgan said.
But Morgan said he thinks that more might need to be done to the homestead exemption other than increasing it.
Perhaps first-time home buyers or homeowners on a certain income should be eligible for a homestead exemption, too, Morgan said.
State Sen. John Yoder, R-Jefferson, said there are several reasons why increasing the homestead exemption would not be popular.
One reason is that there could be opposition from increasing the exemption in other parts of the state where property values are much lower, Yoder said. If the homestead exemption is increased to $50,000, it could wipe out large portions of tax revenues to counties where property values are lower, Yoder said.
"The problem is, people in other parts of the state view us as being rich up here and they want us to pay that money," Yoder said.
Yoder said he thinks a more workable solution might be placing caps on how much property taxes can increase. Yoder is working on a proposal that would give property owners a lifetime deferment on any additional taxes as long as they are 65 years old and have lived here at least five years.
Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson, said he does not think a tax deferment will work and instead supports a homestead exemption that is tied to the value of a home.
Tabb gave an example of a home that is valued at $200,000 but the next year is reassessed at $250,000.
Perhaps half of that increase - $25,000 - could be added to the homestead exemption for a total exemption of $45,000, Tabb said.
State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley-Jefferson, said he likes the idea of capping the amount of tax hikes, although he wants to make sure the caps are not being given to "retired millionaires."
Unger said he would want provisions that they only go to certain people, like those on fixed incomes.
The upcoming session of the Legislature in Charleston, W.Va., starts Jan. 11.
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