Carl Show, a longtime land tax rental system proponent, known as the Henry George system, appeared before the Calhoun Commission Monday
By Bob Weaver
Calhoun Commissioner Kevin Helmick was elected president Monday for 2019, while expressing his concerns for balancing a county budget for 2019-20, saying this year's budget is extremely challenging.
Helmick (left) said, "Over the past few years our county has lost at least $250,000 in revenue at no fault of any local officials. It's due to lost severance taxes from oil, gas, and coal, as well as property taxes not being paid by individuals.
He said the lost revenue has really hurt Calhoun schools budget too, struggling to pay for state mandates.
"This is likely the worst year ever to come up with funds to keep county offices open and provide services," said Commissioner Chip Westfall.
The county, not unlike many other WV counties, is paying on a regional jail bill.
Helmick expressed concerns about a WV Legislature initiative to the state's "inventory tax," lobbied heavily by the gas and oil corporations.
"The purposed legislation is a killer for small counties. If it passes it would virtually limit our upcoming tax money from the $94 million dollar compressor station and possibly other tax sources we are receiving now. This would be passing the burden to county tax payers," he said.
"We worked hard on getting the Transcanada compressor station in Calhoun, which would mean over $1 million annually for the county budget and county schools," Westfall said.
If the legislature supports eliminating the Inventory Tax and is passed by voters with a constitutional amendment, the county gets zero dollars.
"After yesterday's Commission meeting, commissioners held a meeting with the county's elected officials to stress the hardship that the Commission will face when developing the new budget. Although the Commission will not receive the tax revenue estimate from the State until March, it is expected that the current trend of dwindling revenue will continue, while operating expenses continue to rise," said Commissioner Michael Hicks.
Commissioner Westfall said "all the cards are on the table" for cuts, noting that nearly all personnel cuts have already been made, and cutting health insurance benefits paid by the county will unfortunately be an option.
Hicks said, "This is a predicament that most of the surrounding counties are facing.
With the cooperation of the other elected officials, the Commission will be working to find savings in a budget that is already bare-bones
The Commission has always been able to stretch a dollar, but this budget year will determine just how far a dollar can be stretched."
Hicks also said while developing the budget, elected officials will also be monitoring the WV Legislature's attempt to eliminate the business inventory tax, an effort that appears to only help the multi-million and billion dollar corporations while destroying the tax revenue of counties and county school systems.
Calhoun 911/OES Director Julie Sears gave the annual report of 911 activity, and reported on financial problems currently facing Calhoun EMS, related to delayed reimbursement.
The commission allowed $12,200 from the Rainy Day Fund for current operation.
"It hurts me bad to dip into our rainy day fund, considering how hard we have worked to create this account. Ultimately that's why it was created to help in emergencies," Helmick said.
"So we had no choice, but to give money to our newly created ambulance service so they could make pay roll. We can't afford to have the ambulance service fail. I think they would be doing good if Medicare and Medicaid would pay them the money that they are owed. No organization can operate for months without revenue. "
Sears, who is currently acting EMS director, reported that an ambulance would likely be totaled by the insurance company following a crash several weeks ago and that progress was being made to correct the EMS reimbursement problem.
Susan Mercurio appeared before the commission as a delegation asking that better laws should be passed by the county related to domestic issues, and was advised that under WV Code they cannot be
superseded by county ordinances or laws.
Commissioner Westfall reported that the county had yet to receive a $250,000 grant given to Calhoun Park over a year ago by the Appalachian Regional Commission for the Dark Skies Project.
Horst Motz reported that the response to a broadband survey had received 740 residential and 17 business returns. Motz said the Clay, Calhoun and Roane Broadband Council was continuing to research what systems were most viable for rural areas.
Commission approved the reclassification of Charles J. Myers in the Calhoun Sheriffs as a Deputy Sheriff, related to Chief Deputy Jason Chang attending the WV State Police Academy.
Calhoun Clerk Jean Simers advised the commission that she had received 20 electronic voting machines donated to the county by Wetzel County officials, and that a $2,000 purchase of a number of voting machines from Jackson County had been canceled.
The commission conducted numerous other routine items on the docket.
The next general meeting is set for February 12.
Board of Equalization meetings have been set for Feb. 1, 9 a.m.; February 6, 4 p.m.; February 12, 11 a.m.