WV Property Tax Amendment on November Ballot Explained
At the August 16th Pocahontas County Commission meeting, Commissioner John Rebinski briefed his fellow commissioners on the training he recently received at the County Commission Conference. The most significant information he provided was about the “Property Tax Modernization Amendment”, which will be Amendment #1 on the November 8th General Election ballot. Most of us have heard rumors about there being an amendment on the election ballot which, if approved by the voters, could eliminate the personal property tax most of us pay each year on our vehicles. Rebinski explained that while Amendment 1 could be the first step in doing that, there is a lot more to it than simply eliminating our personal property tax.
Rebinski explained that by itself, passage of Amendment 1 only changes the State Constitution to authorize the State Legislature to have the authority to eliminate the taxation of machinery and equipment and inventory used in businesses, as well as to eliminate the personal taxes we all pay on our vehicles each year. So even if Amendment 1 is approved by the voters in November, nothing changes until when, and if the State Legislature subsequently votes to eliminate those taxes.
Rebinski said that if the legislature eventually eliminates those taxes, all the counties in the state would lose one of their largest funding sources. He said the State Senate, if it eventually eliminates those taxes, has indicated that it would consider passing a remedy to replacing that funding to the counties. The proposed remedy would reimburse that lost funding to each county, plus pay each county an additional bonus. Rebinski said these bonus amounts would vary for each county, but for Pocahontas County it could be one million dollars under the Senate proposal.
Walt Helmick said there are several problems with that reimbursement plan. First of all, there is no guarantee this reimbursement would continue every year. Secondly, while the revenues generated by the current tax generally increase as the value of equipment, inventory and personal vehicles increases, the proposed revenue replacements would not increase, but remain static. He also said that the counties may also be forced to share the reimbursed funding and the bonus funding with the municipalities in the county. Rebinski added that the county’s jail billing would also be deducted from the bonus money under the Senate proposal. Additionally, the proposed reimbursement plan would still need to be passed by both houses of the legislature and signed into law by the Governor, which is not guaranteed to happen.
Rebinski said the most important things to remember about Amendment 1 on the November ballot are that passage of the amendment only gives the legislature the authority, which they currently do not have, to eliminate that tax, and for better or worse, it will have a major impact on the revenues received by the county.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the August 16th commission meeting, in which we will tell you about the rest of the actions taken at the meeting.