Is Morgan County treated differently?
Not long ago, we said there seems to be some hypocrisy in Charleston, where officials continue to see the Eastern Panhandle as a cash cow. At the time we were discussing the big assessment hikes in our region, versus the property tax picture in the rest of the state.
Well, a private consultant working for the State Tax Department began a review of the property tax assessments in about a third of West Virginia's 55 counties earlier this month. Among them was Morgan. Let's hope they conclude lower assessments are in order.
The latest home sales information shows fewer properties were sold in February than a year before in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties. For the six reported Morgan County sales in February, the average home price was $168,000 – down from $182,250 in February, 2008.
No one wants to see home values drop, but at least people's tax bills should reflect what is happening.
If you want another example of state officials' hypocrisy, look no further than last year's proposal that the "new" U.S. 522 be built as a toll road. The state's consultant suggested a toll of $1.50 for passenger cars and $4.50 for trucks, to be charged on the six-mile stretch from Berkeley Springs to the Hancock Bridge, with few ways to avoid it.
Now, look at the West Virginia Turnpike across southern West Virginia. Legislators have been wringing their hands because the tolls must be raised to make an $11 million bond payment on the 88-mile highway. Raising tolls from $1.25 to $2 for cars would be the first hike in 28 years. There are three toll plazas, so those prices would be tripled for someone making the full trip, but local traffic around Beckley would only pay about fifty cents.
Legislators of both parties have wailed for removal of the tolls, calling them an unjust burden on residents of southern counties. And a state business journal has editorialized for their removal.
Of course, those voices were nowhere to be heard when Morgan County drivers were the ones who would have been paying through their teeth. Then, they probably considered it progress.