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Jefferson officials watching for action on tax bill

March 13, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Officials in Jefferson County were anxiously awaiting Friday the outcome of a West Virginia bill that could cost the county needed tax dollars as the state legislature winds down its annual session.

The state legislature session ends at midnight today and county officials said they did not know if last-minute efforts would kill West Virginia Senate Bill 241 or if it would pass.

"Right now it's off the calendar at this particular point. It doesn't mean it can't be put back on," said state Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson Co.

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"My position is to slow it down as much as we can and keep it off the calendar indefintely. There are a lot of forces down here that would like it back on," Manuel said.

"There's a lot of political manuevering going on," he said.

The bill would change the way that property planned for development is appraised.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Thompson estimated it would cost Jefferson County as much as $500,000 a year in property tax revenue, most of which would go to Jefferson County schools.

The proposed bill would take subdivisions that already have been platted and are being taxed as commercial projects and would roll back the taxes to a level as if the land had remained in farm use until homes are sold on the platted lots.

Jefferson County Commissioners already are working under the assumption the bill will pass because it's been on a fast track for passage in Charleston.

At a work shop meeting Thursday, Jefferson County Commissioner James K. Ruland said the county should get a letter prepared to send to Gov. Cecil Underwood, asking him to veto the bill in case it does pass.

Thompson, who as the county's attorney advises the commissioners on pending legislation, said he believes Senate Bill 241 is not good public policy.

Thompson said that the bill shifts the tax burden from developers to county residents.

"I call it the Developers Relief Bill," Thompson said.

Thompson said the property tax cuts do not hurt the state legislature, only the local county governments.

Thompson said the bill could spur housing developments even further in the rapidly growing Jefferson County while at the same time the county will have less funds to provide needed services to the new homes.

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