Monongalia County Commission receives good news on TIF districts

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When taken together, Monongalia County’s four tax increment financing (TIF) districts have increased the assessed value in the four zones by more than $190 million.

As mandated by state code, a TIF update and public hearing was provided during Wednesday’s Monongalia County Commission meeting.

Jason Turner of Steptoe & Johnson, the county’s representative in the creation, bonding and project planning in each of the districts, said all four are healthy and functioning as intended.

“Each of these districts is doing well. You may know from experience that they don’t always do well,” Turner said. “It depends on having a good developer, a good plan and a good project.”

Through the TIF process, a base tax amount is set for the district to be remitted to the state. Any taxes generated beyond that base amount is folded back into the district for infrastructure improvements aimed at economic development.

The four districts are:

— Star City — Established in 2010 with a base amount of $19 million. As of June 2017, the assessed value in the district is nearly $37 million.

— Morgantown Industrial Park — Established in 2008 with a base amount of approximately $39 million, the district was last assessed at about $79 million.

— Mon Health Medical Center — Established in 2008 with a base amount of $81 million. The district was assessed at $125 million in 2017.

— University Town Centre — Separated into property tax and sales tax increments, the property tax portion was created in late 2012 with a base of $76 million. A 2017 assessment of the property within the district came back at just over $163 million.

In other county news, the commission voted to move to the West Virginia County Risk Pool for the county’s general liability insurance. Travelers Insurance has provided the coverage for the last decade.

Monongalia County is the 49th of West Virginia’s 55 counties to move over to the county risk pool.

Commissioner Sean Sikora said the pool offers much lower premiums and deductibles — as much as 30 percent lower — but comparable, if not improved, coverage. He said inquiries made of other counties all came back with positive reviews.

“The proposals were each examined very closely and what we found was the proposal submitted by the West Virginia County Risk Pool was clearly superior,” Sikora said. “In the end we have to be good stewards of tax payer dollars.”

The commission thanked Delbert Bowers, CPA and retired insurance broker, for volunteering to consult on the county’s decision at no charge.

The commission also:

— Approved a $30,000 contract with STS Consulting, of Columbia, Md., to provide assistance in finalizing a set of subdivision regulations for the commission’s consideration.

— Heard from Sheriff Perry Palmer, who thanked recent retiree Russell Kirk after 10 years with the sheriff’s department. Palmer said Kirk was instrumental in starting Project Lifesaver, which uses electronic tracking equipment to track transmitter bracelets worn by individuals with cognitive disabilities.

Story by Ben Conley