Board of Public Works approves property taxes for utilities

CHARLESTON – Members of the Board of Public Works approved on Monday property tax assessments for the tax year starting in 2020.

The board, led by Gov. Jim Justice, unanimously approved the assessments for public utility companies, totaling $12.5 billion. This was $16.3 million less than what was proposed during the board’s Nov. 4 meeting, but still a 12-percent increase over tax year 2019 assessments.

Jeff Amburgey, director of the Property Tax Division for the State Tax Department, said tentative assessments were sent to public utilities on Sept. 12. At the board’s Nov. 4 meeting, no companies protested the assessments, though Amburgey said some issues were brought to his attention, so they took another look at the numbers.

“There are some companies that filed late, and some companies file additional information and we occasionally make an error ourselves,” Amburgey said. “We just want to get the values right, even if they do file late.”

While counties handle property tax assessments at the local level, the Board of Public Works handle assessments for public utilities – railroads, freight, gas, electric, water companies, pipelines and transmission lines – because they cross multiple county lines. Property taxes for public utilities in tax year 2019 were $11.2 billion.

The board also certified the tax rates on each class of property. State code mandates that the board certify the levy on the $100 valuation of each class of property by April 15 of each year. The rate for Class I property will be 25 hundredths of 1 cent, Class II property will be five tenths of 1 cent and Classes III and IV will be 1 cent.

“The Board of Public Works must approve these levies,” Amburgey said. “Taxes statewide are like over $1.5 billion a year and the state rate portion is like $7.5 million, so it’s not a lot of money that comes into the state from property taxes.”

In other news:

The Board of Public Works approved the transfer of a deed for property from the City of Wheeling to the State of West Virginia Public Land Corp. The city removed a dilapidated building on the property, adjacent to Independence Hall in Wheeling, before deeding the real estate to the state. Independence Hall hosted the constitutional conventions that led to the creation of the State of West Virginia in 1863.

“The city wants to give it to us. We’ll take care of it and it will just become part of Independence Hall,” said Randall Reid-Smith, curator for the state Department of Arts, Culture and History.

The board also approved a lease-purchase agreement between the West Virginia Economic Development Authority and the West Virginia National Guard for a building to house troops. The 25-year lease-purchase agreement will save the state $2,700 per month.

“If you come to us and tell us we’re saving money and doing better stuff for you guys, it can’t be better than that,” Justice said.

The seven-member board is comprised of six elected state constitutional officers: Justice, Secretary of State Mac Warner, State Auditor J.B. McCuskey, State Treasurer John Perdue (represented Monday by Assistant State Treasurer Josh Stowers), Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. The only unelected member, State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine, was absent.


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