(02/21/2009)
By Bob Weaver

State tax officials say they made errors of millions of dollars in calculating the value of coal reserves in the Mountain State.

This week, the Calhoun Commission reversed the state's increase of over $2 million dollars evaluation that would have been posted for 2009.

The re-evaluation affected over 1,000 parcels in Calhoun, mostly in Washington District, early studies reporting coal often 900 feet or more under the surface in the Pittsburgh and Bakersfield coal seams.

The seams of coal have been considered not viable for mining.

The 2008 valuation on over 1,000 parcels was $138,830, increased to $2,311,014 for 2009.

Calhoun Assessor Jason Nettles said some residents would have gone into shock then they looked at their tax ticket.

The increase appears to be using the same methods the state used in 2001, reported by the Hur Herald.

At that time, Washington District resident Loren Howley brought the issue to the Calhoun Commission, saying "These minerals have no market value."

Howley told a state tax representative in the commission meeting, "This unreasonable tax violates the confidence the public has in government to tax," indicating the agency was using 1900 maps to make the determination.

Commissioner Weaver said "Accepting these numbers on unmineable coal would be irresponsible."

Using the state values, the actual taxes that would have been assessed the owners would have totaled about $40,000.

Jeff Amburgey, director of the Property Tax Division of the state Tax Department, sent a letter to Kanawha County commissioners this week telling them that projected coal reserve values for Kanawha County could be off by as much as $19 million compared with last year.

Until the exact amount of coal reserves can be determined, tax officials are asking county commissions to write their budgets based on last year's coal reserve values.

State tax officials say they may have made some mistakes in the mapping process.

The size of the mistake could result in a difference in actual tax revenues to counties of about $5 million statewide.

Sampled Coal Reserve Increases (Rescinded To 2008)

- Marie Arnold $135 (2008) to $2,256 (2009)

- Earl/Hazel Ragland $1,030(2008) to $17,189 (2009)

- Lida Bailey $593 (2008)to $9,901 (2009)

- Justine/Michael Rogers $674 (2008) to $11,259 (2009)

- Harry Carpenter $42 (2008) to $696 (2009)

Read 2001 story regarding state taxation of Calhoun coal reserves:

Unmineable Coal Taxed In Southern Calhoun


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