Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

Sikora, Hawkins talk growth and development

“Everybody wants to know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it — the statewide experiment that is Monongalia County.”

County Commissioner Sean Sikora offered those comments Wednesday, explaining that he left a recent West Virginia Association of Counties gathering with a new appreciation for the kinds of issues being faced locally. 

“We have really good problems — problems nonetheless — but good problems,” he said.

Both Sikora and Commission President Ed Hawkins said there is a significant contrast between the growth and development in Monongalia County and what’s happening in other parts of the state.

“There is a definite struggle in many counties in West Virginia,” Hawkins said.

Monongalia County’s current revised budget tops out just north of $41 million. Hawkins said he spoke with representatives working to stretch budgets south of $2 million.

“In our budget, we make sure we have extra funding on hand as a contingency, in case it’s necessary,” Hawkins said. “Meanwhile, they’re laying off one of three deputies they have. They’re laying off the one person who works for their assessor.”

While every county is focused on issues like the potential elimination of the state’s inventory tax, Hawkins said it’s especially concerning to counties that would not be able to recoup that loss through potential remedies like the ability to levy a 1% sales tax.

“A 1% sales tax means nothing to a county with little to no enterprise. A sales tax won’t make them whole. It’ll make us whole. What happens in Monongalia County? Monongalia County gets rich if we get a 1% sales tax enacted,” Hawkins said. “People come here to work from across the region. People come here from all over the state.”

Both said the prospect of sharing exciting news from Monongalia County is tempered by the realization that they’re fortunate compared to most of their counterparts.

“I always try to be restrained talking about we’ve got this and we’ve got that when I know they’re just trying to keep the lights on,” Sikora said.