Is Money Too Tight To Mention?

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A few years ago, Wood County's carryover-the amount of money transferred to the current year budget from the spending plan of the year before-was in the millions. Now, it's a lot smaller. Within a few years, say county officials, it could be non-existent.

One way the county sought to bring in extra money, was to capitalize on the oil and gas boom.

"We wanted to put a permit fee on oil wells and gas wells that were drilled here in the county," according to Wayne Dunn, President, Wood County Commission. "We found we couldn't do that one."

The county has been getting some tax revenue from a different boom: the increase in commercial construction, in part brought on by expansions at several local auto dealers.

"The residential construction has been pretty low the last few years," says Assessor Rich Shaffer. "But the commercial has done very well."

The commission is not considering raising its basic tax rate, which was actually lowered not long before the recession began. But one commissioner says any effort to find major funding should get voter approval.

"A lot of times, when communities believe they need a more robust fire department, they put it to the voters to decide," Commissioner Blair Couch said at a meeting of county government officials Monday. "Do you want to raise your property taxes to have better, faster.-whatever it may be."

Where the commission is looking into raising revenue is in fees it charges for things such as licenses and building permits, which it says haven't been raised in more than half a century.

"We found, compared to Kanawha and some other counties, some of the fees we change are basically $10," Dunn says. "That seems to be the magic number. The other counties are much higher than that."

Wood County is still in the black financially. County leaders agree it wants to stay that way.

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