Wood officials talk cost-savings, revenue

PARKERSBURG – Wood County officials considered cost-saving measures and discussed ways to create additional revenue during a meeting Monday sponsored by the county commission.

“Things have been getting tighter and tighter each year. I think we’ve found some ways to cut costs, but we would like to hear suggestions and ideas from you on ways to save and do revenue enhancement,” commission President Wayne Dunn told the Wood County officials and staff attending the meeting.

“One issue we were discussing was possible implementation of a well permit fee with all the development going on, but then we were told by the state we couldn’t do that,” Dunn said.

Dunn noted another possible revenue-producer might be increasing fees the county has control over, like for building permits.

John Reed, Wood County compliance officer, provided a list of Wood County’s fees compared to other counties.

“Wood County currently has no fee for roofing jobs. Apparently there was a big storm in the past and the county stopped charging the fees for awhile, and never reinstated the fee. A demolition fee is $10, other cities charge much more,” Dunn said.

“We are probably out of line there, another example of that is the $3 for dog licenses that was instituted back in the 1950s and has never been raised,” Dunn said. “The fee is set by statute and needs to be changed by the Legislature, but there’s been a lot of talk, and little action.”

Officials said the charge for mobile homes might be another area to look at, officials pointed out some trailers nowadays cost as much as a traditional house.

“If governmental entities have funds to create a better community, it’s more likely they will do that. I think we’ve managed well so far,” Dunn said. He noted efforts with the Wood County Community Corrections drug screening lab. “They are expanding that and hope it will not only be self-sufficient but a revenue producing entity.”

Commissioner Blair Couch said officials would need to look at the building permit fees, but noted keeping the fees down also encourages building.

Officials said enforcement is key as well.

“We encourage them to get a building permit and that notification is then given to the assessor’s office so we can get it on the tax books, if the fee is too high, you may have people not getting a permit. Some people in the more rural areas sometimes try to get by that way,” said Assessor Rich Shaffer.

Dunn noted that probably happens less in the municipalities because of code enforcement efforts there.

“Perhaps if we made it easier, so they could get a permit online, or use debit or credit cards to pay for the permit, that would help,” Couch said.

“I’m not sure everyone in the county even knows they are supposed to get a building permit,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

Officials suggested comparing Wood County’s fees with other Class I counties’ fees.

“There are some counties that have excess/special purpose levies, where the funds raised are earmarked for a specific purpose,” said Vivian Parsons with the West Virginia Assoication of County Commissions.

Dunn said enforcement of personal property tax collections, in making sure residents have West Virginia licenses would also be a key.

“I know the assessor’s office has done that from time to time,” Dunn said.

“We need to close loopholes and not let them slide, like what is and what is not considered farmland. Having one beehive does not make it a farm,” Dunn said. “We need to tighten up on enforcement.”