West Virginia Board of Public Works Sets Property Tax Rates for Large Utilities

2023-09-30 04:02:27

State Tax Commissioner Matthew Irby, left, standing, explains the tentative tax assessments for tax year 2024 to members of the W.Va. Board of Public Works Friday. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — Members of the West Virginia Board of Public Works began the process of setting property tax rates for large utilities in the state by accepting the tentative assessed values Friday.
The Board of Public Works met Friday afternoon at the State Capitol Building in Charleston for their traditional September meeting to accept the tentative assessments.
Gov. Jim Justice was represented by Deputy Chief of Staff Ann Urling, with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey chairing the meeting as the most senior member of the Board of Public Works.
According to the state Tax Division, the tentative assessed value of public service business property for tax year 2024 is more than $14.2 billion, a $957 million increase over the prior tax year final assessment of more than $13.2 billion, a 7.3% increase.
“We’ve got another year in which we’ve got pretty significant inflation impacting values, and public service businesses are impacted just like anybody else,” said State Tax Commissioner Matthew Irby.
The biggest increase in tentative assessed values includes a 6.9% increase in electric utilities from $6 billion in tax year 2023 to $6.5 billion in tax year 2024. Railroads also saw a 5.5% increase, from $1.4 billion in tax year 2023 to $1.5 billion in tax year 2024.
“In particular this year, we see pretty significant increases in the electric utilities,” Irby said. “We also see that on railroad utilities as well, I think, and railroad utilities have seen some pretty strong years over the last couple of years. I think with the movement of natural resources through this state, that’s significantly increased their activity associated with that. And that’s why we see some pretty significant value increases.”
Although most real and personal property is assessed at the local level by county assessors with county commissions approving the final rates, the Board of Public Works approves the real and personal property values of public utilities whose properties stretch across two or more counties. Rather than have each of the 55 assessors determine the value, the property is appraised and assessed by the Tax Division.
The owner or operator of every public utility is required to file a report with the state tax commissioner no later than May 1 itemizing the utility’s property for the previous calendar year in detail set out by law. The tax commissioner reviews the reports, obtains any additional information needed, sets the tentative assessment for each utility and mails a copy to the owner or operator of the utility.
The Tax Commissioner must deliver the tentative assessments to the Board of Public Works by Sept. 15 and the board then orders the assessments at a meeting to be held no later than Oct. 1.
The types of utilities include airlines, private bridge owners, bus companies, electric providers, natural gas providers, non-cellular communication (paging services), railroads and carlines, pipelines, cell phone companies, private sewer services, landline telephone services, underground gas storage, water and water/sewer services.
The Board of Public Works consists of the governor, the secretary of state, the attorney general, the agriculture commissioner, the state auditor, the state treasurer, and state superintendent of schools.
Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt and Secretary of State Mac Warner were in attendance, while Auditor J.B. McCuskey and Treasurer Riley Moore were represented by proxies. This was also the first meeting for newly-appointed State Superintendent of Schools Michelle Blatt, the first woman member of the board since Natalie Tennant, a former secretary of state.
The Board of Public Works could hear tax assessment appeals from utility companies as soon as November with final assessment values to be approved in January.
Steven Allen Adams can be reached at [email protected].

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