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Developers' tax break dies in W.Va. Senate

March 08, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A controversial tax proposal in the Legislature which would have slashed local school and county government budgets by hundreds of thousands of dollars has died, according to Sen. Herb Snyder, who fought the bill.

But the defeat may have come at a cost.

Although Snyder would not elaborate, he believes the defeat of Senate Bill 29 in turn caused the failure of a bill that would seek more money for new school construction in the Eastern Panhandle.

Senate Bill 29 would have reduced the amount of taxes developers pay on building lots, according to local officials.

When a developer divides a piece of land into building lots and makes required improvements such as roads, water and sewer service, the property is taxed at the commercial rate, Class 3. The Class 3 rate is twice as much as Class 2.

Under the bill introduced by Sen. Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, the value of property would not be changed until lots are sold, according to Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson, who fought the plan.

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The bill would have cut Jefferson County's budget by about $150,000 and the Jefferson County Board of Education's budget by about $350,000, the County Commissioners said.

The Berkeley County Board of Education would have lost about $400,000 and the Berkeley County Commissioners would have lost about $95,000.

Snyder said he could not allow a bill to pass that would have that much of an impact on local government.

As vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Snyder worked to keep the bill from getting any consideration.

"The whole thing is over and I'm glad of it," Snyder said Monday night.

"That kind of hit to our budget would be devastating," said Berkeley County Commissioners President D. Wayne Dunham.

As for school funding, the effort will continue next year, said Snyder, D-Jefferson.

Snyder and Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, co-sponsored a bill that would seek more school construction money for counties that experience at least a 1.5 percent growth rate in their student populations.

But the bill did not guarantee money for growing counties. It would merely request the governor to ask for extra money in his budget, which then would have to be approved by the Legislature.

School superintendents in Berkeley and Jefferson counties said the lack of guaranteed funding concerned them.

Staff writer Bryn Mickle contributed to this story.

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