Wood County discusses tracking vehicles for assessment

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Assessor’s Office is looking for a way to better track vehicles in assessing personal property.

Wood County Assessor David Nohe and Deputy Assessor Andy Hartleben appeared before the Wood County Commission Thursday to give an erroneous assessment update.

For real property, the Assessor’s Office has 57,845 accounts, including residential and commercial accounts.

From 2012 to 2018, there were 473 erroneous assessment applications made with 0.82 percent of the total accounts exonerated during that time, Hartleben said.

“That is less than 1 percent,” he said.

The median adjustment comes out to $99.64.

For personal property, there are 22,239 accounts.

From 2012 to 2018, there were 1,033 erroneous assessment applications made with 4.64 percent of the total accounts exonerated during that time, Hartleben said.

The median adjustment comes out to $160.76.

“To put it in perspective, that doesn’t seem like a really big number,” Hartleben said. “Our number-one goal is to make sure that assessment is fair.

“When a mistake happens, we’d like to correct it. It doesn’t seem right to make someone pay more tax than what they owe.”

Nohe said around 75 percent of their exonerations come from personal property, usually vehicles.

The current system to keep track of vehicles is outdated, he said. When people get their card that their vehicles are listed, they are asked to take a pen and mark through that if they still don’t own it.

“It is very confusing to people,” Nohe said. “In West Virginia, we don’t have a tracking system when you sell a car out-of-state.

“Some states mail back the titles while others just shred them. That title disappears and there is no tracking.”

In other states, people are required to fill out a form that goes to the sheriff and assessor that the vehicle was sold. Such forms are part of the package from the dealerships.

“There is a tracking of where that car went,” Nohe said.

If something like that was implemented in West Virginia, along with the appropriate software, it would cut their exoneration in half, Nohe said.

“There should be a better system than just marking a line through something,” he said. “There has to be a better system than what we use.”

Commissioner Jimmy Colombo said there is no certainty in doing that either.

Commissioner Robert Tebay said Nohe should contact state lawmakers, being a former legislator, and see what could be done legislatively.

Nohe said lot of groups would have to put their support behind it, including the state Assessors Association.

In other business, a group of citizens appeared before the county commission to discuss concerns with the fairgrounds on Butcher Bend Road in Mineral Wells.

Commission President Blair Couch said the county and state provide funding to the West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition held annually at the fairgrounds on Butcher Bend Road.

Citizens talked about a recent fair board meeting where the proposed sale of 25 acres to a fair official was discussed. The official reportedly had been using the land in question for cattle and had paid the fair board around $62,000 over a 10-year period for the land use.

Others said another offer was made from an outside party that was rejected by the fair board. People wanted to know how many more years the fair can continue to operate.

The fair board owns the property and elects a board of directors.

About five years ago, county officials looked into the question if the county would get the land if the fair ever went out of business.

“That is not true,” Couch said “It is not in the title. Our role in this is we don’t appoint members to their board, their members are elected by the board and we just provide them with a small amount of money and we have reduced that over time,” Couch said.

Any authority over the fair the commission might have is limited, Couch said.

Couch wants Fair Board President Mike Zoller and other board members, as well as residents who appeared before the commission Thursday, to discuss their concerns in an open forum.

“We got one side of the story and I am excited to get the second half of the story,” Couch said.