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School aid bill clears hurdle in W.Va. House

Tax relief proposal for seniors still alive

Tax relief proposal for seniors still alive

February 27, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley and Jefferson County school districts stand to gain about $4.6 million from legislation that passed the House of Delegates on Tuesday, and a bill proposing property tax relief for seniors still is alive in the state Senate, Eastern Panhandle lawmakers said.

Del. Walter Duke said adjustments to the state's School Aid Formula in House Bill 4588 would help Berkeley County realize about $3 million after adjustments are fully phased in during the three-year plan. Jefferson County would gain about $1.6 million, said Duke, R-Berkeley.

Berkeley County particularly would be helped with the purchase of school buses, and lawmakers also clarified how funding for school nurses and counselors was appropriated, said Duke, who serves on the House Education Committee.

Fellow committee member Locke Wysong, D-Jefferson, warned that the figures were based on student enrollment projections, and added that the legislation's future in the Senate or beyond was unknown.

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"The Senate has a different feeling on" (our version of the bill)," Wysong said. "The governor's office does, too."

Gov. Joe Manchin, meanwhile, has warmed up to state Sen. John Unger's amendment to legislation that would rebate tax increases to seniors who earn $25,000 or less annually, the Berkeley County lawmaker said.

Though Senate Bill 239 on Monday was taken off the senate calendar to be voted on by Senate leaders, Unger said clarifying language expected to be added today appears to have soothed Manchin's concerns, and now he expects the bill to pass the Senate today.

"They didn't want (the benefit) to be retroactive," Unger said.

As proposed, the bill still provides immediate relief from property tax increases to people age 65 or older who make more than $25,000 annually, but a lien would be placed on their property and the additional tax increases could be collected at the time the land is sold or transferred. Those making $25,000 or less, however, could apply for a deferment of the tax increases and also be eligible to have the increase rebated.

Unger said Tuesday he was working out the logistics with the state tax department, so there is "no lag time" in between the deferment and the rebate.

In both cases, property tax bills for seniors could be frozen at their current amount beginning with the 2009 tax year.

"I'm getting a lot of calls from people (in support of the bill)," Unger said. "The word's getting out."

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