Charleston, WV - Last week, Senator Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson) introduced Senate Bill 347. This bill seeks to incrementally redistribute over a five year period an existing excise tax on the transfer of real property, or so called “deed stamps”, so that, all of the money collected will be paid to the county where the property is situated instead of the state. The bill would further require that the money paid to counties through this tax be exclusively dedicated to regional jails.
“West Virginia’s Regional Jail system is currently facing severe funding problems associated with overcrowding and other issues,” said Senator Snyder. “The thought is that, through passage of this measure, we can help alleviate some of those problems currently hampering the system and the counties can keep and use the money themselves more adequately.”
The bill, introduced on January 19th, was referred to the Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees for their discussion. Earlier this week, the Judiciary Committee met and reported the bill out with the recommendation that it pass. The bill now heads to the Finance Committee where it will again be scrutinized by Senators.
“Currently, the County Clerk collects and accounts for transfer taxes and sends 50 percent to the State General Revenue Fund. This proposal would allow counties to retain that portion of transfer taxes over a 5-year incremental phase-in and would not result in an increase to the taxpayers,” said Snyder.
A study from the West Virginia Association of Counties provides some statistics on this matter. For Fiscal Year(FY) 2011, Regional Jail costs statewide were $42.2 million and money from the transfer tax totaled $8 million. Locally, in the Eastern Panhandle, the transfer tax amount was estimated at $651,000 for Berkeley County with a Regional Jail costs of $2.85 million, $499,000 in Jefferson County with a Regional Jail cost of $1.03 million and $78,000 in Morgan County with an Regional Jail cost of $531,000.
“Counties are feeling the brunt of the Regional Jail costs with the current system,” said Senator Snyder. “With this incremental phase-in plan we can begin to ease some of that burden off the counties without putting too much strain on the state budget at a time when we expect some budgetary reductions.”