MORGANTOWN — For the fourth time in as many years, the Monongalia County Commission intends to lower the county’s levy rate.
That was one of the major talking points Friday as the commission met in special session to approve a $39,292,159 spending plan for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Roughly half of the budget, or $19,136,496, will be generated through property taxes using a base rate of 11.25 cents on every $100 of assessed property value. That’s down from 11.5 in the current fiscal year and 11.75 for fiscal year 2020.
The proposed rate means Class II, or owner occupied property, will be taxed at 22.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. That rate doubles to 45 cents for rental properties in a municipality (Class III) or the county (Class IV).
When compared to current levy rates statewide, the proposed base rate of 11.25 would give Monongalia County the second lowest in the state, behind only Marshall County, at 10.99.
Even with the four voter-supported excess levies added in, Commission President Sean Sikora said, Monongalia would still be among the 10 counties with the lowest rates.
“Overall, 38 of the state’s 55 counties are maxed out. They’re at the 14.3 county rate. They can’t go any higher,” Sikora said. “We really are lucky with everything we have here in Mon County and it’s a real privilege to serve the county. We have great problems.”
The rate cut will mean about $600,000 for the county’s bottom line.
Another major point of interest is carryover. The 2022 budget projects $11 million of it.
A fully funded contingency line item, about $3.9 million, is part of that number, as is $2.5 million in CARES Act reimbursements that were not anticipated last March and have remained untouched pending further state direction.
The spending plan does not include any of the funds anticipated – $20.48 million split between the current and 2022 fiscal years – as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
The proposed budget represents an increase of about $1.5 million over the current budget, as approved this time last year.
A 3% pay increase for county employees, with a minimum of $1,500 for full-time employees and $1,000 for part-time employees, is included in the budget. It also anticipates a 10% increase, or about $450,000, in health care costs, which will be covered by the county.
The budget also includes $1.3 million for nonprofits and social service agencies.
Sikora said that number represents 82% of the requests received by the commission.
“We fund programs that strongly benefit our community. When things work, we want to make sure the funds go there,” Commissioner Tom Bloom said, noting increased funding for the Monongalia County Health Department and Morgantown Area Partnership, among others.
Commissioner Jeff Arnett called his first budgeting process “eye opening” and credited Sikora and County Administrator Rennetta McClure, who lead effort with support from Grant Coordinator Collene Coon.
“There’s no fluff in this budget and there’s no light decisions made. We spent hours and hours going over every dollar and cent. Sean and Rennetta are amazing with the numbers,” Arnett said. “You hear governments fluff their budgets. I can promise you that’s not going on here at all.”