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Preston County Commission hears second tax complaint

KINGWOOD — For the second week in a row, a taxpayer asked Preston commissioners why she was invited to make her presentation to them, if everyone knew in advance there was nothing they could do to help.

Linda Jacobs, a Pennsylvania resident, was protesting taxes assessed on a camper she keeps at Big Bear Lake part of each year.

Commissioners Don Smith and Samantha Stone told her the same thing they told Evelyn Belangia last week, when Belangia sought relief for taxes assessed while her Brandonville property was under construction.

“The prosecuting attorney basically said that it’s not within our jurisdiction to make this determination,” and objected to any change in the taxes because of the way code is written, Smith said.

“We can’t change code. We have to work within the code,” Smith said Tuesday.

Assessor Connie Ervin said the code says taxpayers should appeal assessments in February to the state tax commissioner’s office. So this bill should have been appealed in February.

“But how would I have known if the bill didn’t come until late summer?” Jacobs asked.

Ervin said she could have checked her assessment in February. Information about taxes is published in the newspapers.

And, as Belangia did last week, Jacobs asked Ervin, “So why was I told to come here by your office?”

“We didn’t have any place else for you to go at this point,” Ervin replied. “It was too late for you to go to the state tax commissioner by the time you got your bill. It is your right to be heard.”

Commissioner Stone, who acted as president pro tempore Tuesday, said Jacobs did her homework but, “unfortunately,” it’s a state-level issue. “Really there’s nothing that we can do at our level at this time.”

She thanked Jacobs for her time.

“And we will see what we can do better to not let this happen,” Smith said.

Ervin agreed to provide Jacobs with information to attempt an appeal with the state tax commissioner.

Jacobs said she pays taxes without question on one camper she keeps at Big Bear, but the other is mobile and the family takes it to different places. She showed time-stamped photos from her cell phone that showed the camper at her home and other places.

Ervin said the camper was at Big Bear in October 2018. That date was picked for assessing personal properties there because electric at the campsites is turned off by then and people have time to move the campers.

“But technically, anything that’s there July 1 is assessable,” Ervin said.

“I didn’t realize any of this,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the electric is turned off Nov. 1, and she will ensure the camper is not there in mid-October after this.

Ervin said Jacobs paid the 2017 tax without question. Jacobs said her family was moving then and she did not look closely at the bill. This year, she did.

Also at the meeting, commissioners met behind closed doors with attorney Hunter Mullens, of Mullens and Mullens, about a proposed nationwide settlement with drugmakers regarding opioid sales. Prosecuting Attorney Mel Snyder was included in the meeting.

Commissioner Dave Price was not at the meeting.

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