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Economic development proposal draws concers from board member

October 02, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An economic development proposal that will be put before West Virginia voters in the Nov. 5 election was criticized Tuesday night by a Jefferson County Board of Education member who said he thinks it will hurt schools.

The proposal, called Amendment 1, will give counties a way to attract new business by setting aside tax revenues to pay for incentives for the businesses, said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

In some cases, prospective businesses could request that certain improvements be made for them, such as extending a railroad spur to their facility or extending utilities to the site, before they agree to move to an area, Peters said.

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Under Amendment 1, new taxes that would be generated from the new businesses could be used to pay for the improvements for the plant, Peters said.

Peters said the proposal is needed for Jefferson County to remain competitive in attracting new business to the county. Peters said 46 other states have such an amendment.

Board member Paul Manzuk criticized the plan, saying he believes it could have negative effects on the school system.

A new plant would bring more school children into the county and the school system would not be able to collect the additional taxes the business would generate to pay for the extra students, said Manzuk.

The school system receives a majority of the property tax revenues to run schools.

Because the school system would not be able to receive any added tax revenues from a new business, it would have to look to voters for help in raising more money for the schools, Manzuk said.

Manzuk said the timing of Amendment 1 is especially poor since the School Board is going to ask voters on Nov. 5 to renew an excess levy that will call for a tax increase.

"I don't see where this is helping," Manzuk said. "Personally, I have a lot of questions about it right now."

The School Board decided to delay any action to support Amendment 1.

Board member Delores Milstead said she does not have enough information about Amendment 1 to make a decision.

Peters said board members must remember that while tax revenues from a new business lured here with the use of Amendment 1 would be delayed, they would see a windfall eventually.

And the benefit could be particularly good if the new business were a high-tech company with good-paying jobs, Peters said.

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