On Nov. 8, West Virginia voters will decide whether or not to approve Amendment 2, which if approved, will allow the state legislature to eliminate tangible personal property taxes for businesses as well as the personal property tax for vehicles, without an agreed upon plan to make up at least $500 million a year in lost revenue for counties, cities and schools. This is the definition of fiscal irresponsibility. What will happen if our state budget surplus turns into a deficit? Where do you think the money will come from to make up the deficit? I have a bad feeling that the state legislature may adopt a property tax scheme similar to that of Pennsylvania or Ohio. Which means you the taxpaying resident will make up the difference. Just the title of Amendment 2, “Property Tax Modernization Amendment” speaks volumes about what could happen.
Eliminating tangible personal property taxes has already been done in Ohio. To make a long, convoluted tax story short, local governments and schools ended up losing funding. In 2019, the nonprofit Tax Foundation ranked Ohio as the 9th most expensive state for property taxes as a percentage of home value on owner-occupied housing, up from the 13th in 2006. West Virginia stayed at number 45 in both 2006 and 2019.
My immediate family and I moved to West Virginia from McKees Rocks, Pa. to escape high property taxes. Pennsylvania residents pay property taxes levied by three different entities: the county, municipality and the local school district. As a simple example, residents of McKees Rocks owe $4045.50 a year in property taxes on real estate that has an assessed value of $100,000 or $1246.01 a year on real estate at the median assessed value of $30,800, using 2022 millage rates. That is one of the lower class municipalities in Allegheny County. There are some folks in higher class municipalities such as Fox Chapel that owe over $39,000 a year in property taxes. In addition, there is the Local Services Tax that is owed and a Local Wage Tax that may be applicable. If you want to strike a nerve with a Pennsylvania resident, just bring up property taxes, especially the school tax portion. Since Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has no tax on tangible personal property, it is a perfect illustration of what is not collected in one possible tax category is made up in another. West Virginia residents will not save any money!
If Amendment 2 is approved, I fear that what is happening in Pennsylvania and Ohio with taxes could happen in West Virginia. I predict that it will turn into an expensive and irreversible mess for residents while giving tax cuts to big corporations.
Edward W. Zawatski