Citizens loudly voice opposition to tax increases
DEvelyn Post facilitated Thursday’s nights meeting of the Braxton County Tax Study Association.
By Opal Fox
On January 22 at 7:00pm., Evelyn Post hosted a meeting of the Tax Study Association at the Flatwoods Community Center to discuss the issue of increased property taxes and what action needs to be taken by the citizens to determine if their property has been assessed properly.
Those attending included Gary Ellyson, County Commissioner, John Doyle, Deputy Secretary of Revenue, Leroy Barker, Appraiser Chief, from the Appraisal Services Unit in Charleston and approximately 90-100 concerned citizens from Braxton County. During the two hour meeting citizens ask several questions and voiced many concerns regarding the increases; they wanted to know why the increase is so high, how the county was computing the average; how the money is being used and if any of it is applied to the Braxton public school system.
Citizens voiced concerns about the property value increasing by thousands of dollars and knowing the property is not actually worth it. One resident, Daniel Arnold, stated that “if my house is actually worth what they appraised it to be, I would sell it next month”.
One resident had his residential review document with him and pointed out to Ellyson that errors existed regarding the floor plans of his house. The document showed his small house as having four bedrooms when the house only has one bedroom. This resident was also concerned because his house is located in a flood zone and the residential review document did not reflect his property as such.
Another resident informed Commissioner Ellyson she had received phone calls from residents stating that if Braxton County moved into a higher tax bracket the elected officials could receive a pay raise and she wanted to know if it was true. Ellyson stated “yes, but I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t accept a raise”.
Citizens were concerned about why there is such a large increase all at one time and they want answers. Another resident voiced her concern about how people living on a fixed income are going to make it. Due to the increase in utility bills, groceries, medical expenses and food, “they are already forced to choose between buying medication or food”. She wanted to know how the county expected them to now pay increased property taxes.
Commissioner Ellyson and the Tax Department representatives attempted to answer everyone’s questions and explained the process. The trio stated that it is a state law that property taxes had to be increased to 90-110 percent of market value and if the county did not increase the amount the state would step in and automatically increase the tax amount to 110 percent. Ellyson stated “I would rather the county increase the taxes so the state does not increase them to 110 percent”. He also mentioned that the citizens had eight days to fill out paper work requesting an appeal.
Many citizens voiced their concern about contacting the Assessor’s office and not receiving a return call. One lady presented a copy of the letter that she sent to begin the appeals process and nothing was done. The Appraiser Chief informed the citizens that the state provides the free form from Chapter 11 for the convenience of the people who wants to file a grievance.
Resident, Nick Lockard stated “I went to the Assessor’s office three times within the eight days and requested the form from Chapter 11, section11-3-15C(a) and was told by Roger Conrad, Deputy Assessor, that he didn’t know what it was, then stated that he could not provide him the form”. The tax Department Representative assured the residents that something like that should never happen and the state provides the forms free of charge and no one should ever be denied the form. He continued telling the citizens what to look for on their residential review document; such as, does the layout of the house match the document, mineral rights, and layout of the land match what is actually owned. If the resident does not believe things match up, he suggested they call the Assessor’s office and County Commission to schedule a meeting before the Board of Equalization. Ellyson informed the crowd that the County Commission schedule is tight, but everyone has the right to be heard and will be. However, he added that the Burden of Proof is the responsibility of the property owners and they need to be prepared with the proper documentation when appearing before the board. Many residents voiced their concern about the Assessor’s job performance.
Evelyn Post reminded the residents to carefully review their residential review document and compare it with what is in their deed; be aware of the mineral right; know the flood zones; power company; state road and water company ride a ways, easements and anything that may be considered waste land.
As the meeting came to a close, residents requested that Post schedule another meeting.
Gary Ellyson (left) John Doyle, Deputy Secretary of Revenue, Leroy Barker, Appraiser Chief attended the meeting to help Evelyn Post answer questions pertaining to the widespread tax increase that local citizens are experiencing.
Emergency meeting leads to extended hours for Assessor’s office
The Braxton Commission held an emergency meeting on Friday January 23, at 11:00 a.m. The extra ordinary session was called by Gary Ellyson with the concurrence of his fellow Commissioners. As is required by state code, the Commission had to explain the need of an emergency meeting when Gary Ellyson called the meeting to order. Ellyson presided over the meeting since Commission President Ron Facemire was attending by telephone. Ellyson stated that he felt the emergency meeting was necessary after he attended a meeting of the Braxton County Tax Study Association on Thursday evening and had a subsequent discussion with the Assessor on Friday morning. “It was quite apparent at that meeting that a number of citizens have been unable to get the answers they want from the Assessors’ Office. That is in part because the Assessor and two staff members are new to the job, and that the response to the tax increases have overwhelmed the ability of the office staff to handle,” explained Ellyson. He went on the tell of his discussion with Assessor Brenda Mollohan on Friday morning and their decision that additional personnel was needed to accommodate the citizens’ inquiries.
Deputy Assessor Clifford Pierson told the Commission that the Assessor’s office was recommending that former longtime employees Nancy Keener and David Kuhl, who retired at the end of the year, be reemployed for a period of 30 to 60 days to enable the office to handle the inquires and make necessary arrangements for those who wished to appear before the Board of Equalization which begins on January 30. Pierson further stated that the Assessor had the money in her budget to pay the necessary expenses of the additional employees. After hearing the proposal, Ron Facemire made a motion to approve the employment of Nancy Keener and David Kuhl which passed unanimously.
Ellyson went on the say that some taxpayers could not access the courthouse during regular business hour due to their work scheduled and that he and the Assessor would like to establish temporary extended hours to better meet the needs of the taxpayers. Following the discussion, Ron Facemire made a motion to approve overtime pay necessary for the Assessor to establish extended from 4 to 7 PM on January 29, February 2 & 3. Ellyson explained that if there was additional need, additional hours may be added.
The third item on the emergency meeting agenda was “Approval of Assessor’s Valuation Budget Revisions.” That item received no action as Commissioner Ellyson stated a revision was not needed at this time.
The Board of Equalization meets on January 30, February 4, 9, 12, & 17. Anyone wishing to appear before the County Commission setting as a Board of Equalization must make a written request and turn it in to at the Assessor’s office.
Several have day in Braxton Co. Circuit Court
William Cody Lytle appeared in Braxton County Circuit Court on the 9th of January, before the Honorable Richard A. Facemire, Judge for the purpose of a plea hearing. Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state in the matter and J. Paul Williams acted as counsel for the defendant.
The Court accepted Lytle’s plea of guilty to the felony offense of delivery of methamphetamine. It was further ordered that Lytle appear before the Court again on February 10 for sentencing.
Jason Tanner appeared before Judge Facemire on December 4, for the order of revoking probation. Tanner was represented in person and through counsel, David Karickhoff. Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state. Tanner requested alternative sentencing.
After mature consideration, it was ordered that the probation previously granted be revoked. Judge Facemire told the defendant that he was troubled by Tanner’s failure to avail himself of prior opportunities, his likelihood to commit another crime, his extensive substance abuse history, and the seriousness of the offense. The Judge ordered that Tanner be imprisoned in the state penitentiary for the felonious offense of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, to-wit: Clonazepam. No less than one year nor more than three. Tanner was given credit for time served, 52 days, before he was remanded to the Central Regional Jail to await transfer to the state penitentiary.
On December 4, Robbie Brown appeared before the Court for sentencing. David Karickhoff acted as counsel in the matter, Vicki Brittner appeared on behalf of the Braxton County Probation Office, and Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state.
Brown, in person and by counsel, requested alternative sentencing for his conviction of manufacturing a controlled substance, to-wit: Marijuana. The Court denied Brown’s motion and it was further ordered that he be imprisoned in the state penitentiary for no less than one, but no more than five years.
On December 5, James Maciak appeared before the Court for a plea hearing. Clinton Bischoff acted as counsel for Maciak. Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state. Maciak, in person and by counsel, pled guilty to the two counts of the felonious offenses of Grand Larceny, and to four counts of Nighttime Burglary. The State agreed to stand silent in regard to sentencing. The Court dismissed the remaining counts against Maciak. The defendant was remanded to the Stevens Correctional Center authorities to await further proceeding in the matter.
On December 18, Charles Nathan Green appeared in Circuit Court for the purpose of a plea hearing. Green was represented by counsel Kevin Hughart. Jasmine R. H. Morton represented the state.
Green pled guilty to the felonious offense of Conspiracy to Deliver a Controlled Substance, to-wit: Hydrocodone. The Court found Green guilty of the charge and ordered that the remaining counts be dismissed with prejudice. The Court on its own motion, moved to delay the sentencing in the matter in order to have a pre-sentence investigation report completed. It was further ordered that Green return to Court on January 29, for sentencing.
Caleb Mowery made appearances in Court on December 18 for the purpose of a plea hearing. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Jasmine R. H. Morton, represented the state, while Mowery addressed the Court in person, and through counsel, Kevin Hughart.
Mowery was found guilty to the felonious offense of Domestic Assault. The Court delayed sentencing until January 29.
On December 8, Danny Lee Morgan, Sr. appeared in Court for sentencing. Bernard Mauser acted as counsel for the defendant. Prosecuting Attorney Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state.
It was ordered that Morgan be sentenced to six months in the Central Regional Jail for the act of driving under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs. It was further ordered that his sentence be suspended and the defendant be admitted to probation for a period of eighteen months. During his probation, Morgan is to abide by a lengthy set of rules and regulations. If he fails to comply with the terms and conditions, he shall be arrested without warrant or hearing.
Julius Howard Lanham came before the Court on December 5 for the purpose of a plea hearing. Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state. Lanham, with the assistance of his counsel, Daniel Armstrong, pled guilty to the two counts of the felonious offense of sexual abuse in the first degree. The Court accepted defendant’s guilty plea.
The Court delayed sentencing in the matter so that a sexual offender evaluation could be completed. Therefore, Lanham is to appear before the Court on January 12 for further sentencing.
On December 8, Kayla M. Hamner appeared in Court for sentencing. Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state. Hamner, by and through her counsel, Bernard Mauser, addressed the Court prior to sentencing and requested an altenative sentence. The State of West Virginia recommended probation and restitution in the matter.
Upon mature consideration, the Court ordered that upon her conviction to the felonious offense of Fraudulent Schemes, Hamner be sentenced to the State Penitentiary for no more than one year, but no less than ten years. However, the Court granted Hamner’s motion for alternative sentencing and ordered that the sentence be suspended. Hamner was admitted to probation for a period of five years, with special conditions she must abide by.
On December 8, Floyd Smith appeared before the Court for sentencing. David Karickhoff acted as counsel in the matter, and Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state.
Smith, in person and by counsel, requested alternative sentencing in the matter. The Court denied his motion for alternative sentencing and ordered that upon his conviction of the felonious offense of fleeing with reckless indifference, Smith be imprisoned in the State Penitentiary for no less than one and no more than five years. It was further ordered that Smith be fined two thousand dollars and pay the costs of this action as taxed by the Clerk within eighteen months.
Harry Hinkel IV made appearances in Court on December 18 for the purpose of a plea hearing. Hinkel addressed the Court in person and by counsel, Bryan Hinkel. Jasmine R.H. Morton represented the state.
Hinkel plead guilty to the felonious offenses of soliciting a minor via a computer device. It was then adjudged that Hinkel is guilty and in its own motion, the Court moved to delay sentencing so that a pre-sentence investigation report may be completed. Hinkel shall appear before Court on January 12 for further sentencing.
On December 18, Terry Cutlip appeared in Court for the purpose of a plea hearing. J. Paul Williams acted as counsel in the matter, while Jasmine R. H. Morton represented the state.
Cutlip plead guilty to the felonious offense of attempt to commit a felony, to-wit: escape in violation of the West Virginia Code. The defendant was found guilty and the Court went on to delay the sentencing in order that a pre-sentence investigation report be completed. Cutlip is to appear before Court again on January 29 for further sentencing.
On December 4, Robbie Brown made appearances in Court for sentencing. Prosecuting Attorney, Kelly Hamon McLaughlin represented the state, and Vicki Brittner appeared on behalf of the Braxton County Probation Office. David Karickhoff stood in as counsel.
Brown’s motion for alternative sentencing was denied and it was ordered that upon his conviction to the felonious offense of manufacturing a controlled substance, to-wit: Marijuana, that Brown be imprisoned in the State Penitentiary for no less than one year and no more than five years.
Preschool/Head Start/Kindergarten registration times announced
Registration dates for school enrollment have been scheduled. This will include children who will be three prior to September 1 and will be entering the program for three-year-olds; children who will be four prior to September 1 and will be entering the preschool/Head Start program; and any child entering kindergarten that is not already enrolled in the school.
Parents/guardians are asked to bring a copy of the child’s immunization records, a recent physical examination, a recent dental examination and a certified birth certificate. Those enrolling in PreK (3 and 4 year olds) will also need to bring proof of a lead screening and a proof of income.
West Virginia State law requires a person enrolling a pupil for the first time in a West Virginia Public school to present a copy of the child’s original birth record certified by the state Registrar of Vital Statistics confirming the pupil’s identity, age, and state file number of the original birth. A copy of the birth certificate can be obtained by contacting the Health Statistics Center at 350 Capitol Street, Room 165 Charleston, WV 25301-3701 (304) 558-293. A fee of $12.00 is charged by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Vital Statistics for this certificate. Applications may also be found on line at http://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/hsc/vital/birthcert.asp
The School Health Nurse will review immunization records and inform parents of the immunizations necessary for school entry.
This registration is very important so that schools will be able to provide appropriate staffing to accommodate students. Please call your child’s school and schedule an appointment for his/her registration. Registration dates are as follows:
Little Birch Elementary
Registration does not guarantee a child’s placement in specific school or classroom. Registration will follow the Head Start placement criteria. If the school in your child’s attendance area is fully enrolled (20 students), he/she will be offered placement in another school in the county.