No relief in sight
Certainly doesn't look like Eastern Panhandle residents, or most West Virginians for that matter, are going to look back on 2007 as a year when the state legislators helped them very much.
The West Virginia Legislature is in its usual bustle of activity as it heads toward midnight on Saturday, when the session ends and legislators turn into pumpkins again.
The House of Delegates managed to show support for casino gambling and some business tax changes, but a bill to limit property tax hikes never got out of the committee room.
Delegates did pass a bill that tries to control prescription drug costs and makes drug companies report what they spend wining and dining doctors. But at press time, it was no sure thing that the State Senate would concur.
Panhandle legislators are also having trouble winning extra school funds for our growing area. One of the roadblocks always seems to be the West Virginia Education Association, which opposes extra pay for teachers in border areas like ours, where educators are lured away by higher pay in adjoining states.
If you have any doubt that the Manchin "Open For Business" Administration is skewed toward the southern half of the state, check out the latest list of Small Cities Block Grants. Some $16.7 million was given to 18 projects. Virtually none of them were in the eastern or northern parts of the Mountain State.
As far as limiting property tax hikes, it's still not an issue in most of the state and the powers-that-be in Charleston continue to insist that the Eastern Panhandle is under-assessed. You think they'd look at tax bills elsewhere before they made such statements. They're just milking the Magic Cow, but they don't want to feed it.
Locally, about twenty people appealed their assessments when the Morgan County Commissioners sat as a Board of Equalization in February. This was more than many other years and is another indicator that local people are feeling the growing tax burden.
A frequent complaint is that assessments increased with home prices in recent years, but haven't gone down as the real estate market slackened and even deflated. Some counties are reducing assessments, such as Fairfax County, Va., according to a recent Washington Post article.
Since legislators didn't do much to help ordinary people on the tax front, perhaps the Morgan County School Board – which gets three-quarters of local property tax funds — will lower its special levy rate this year.
If some adjustment isn't made, it's going to be hard to convince people to support a possible bond issue for a new courthouse, or new county projects, or additional fees for emergency services, or even a continuation of the special school levy itself.