SHINNSTON, W.Va. – West Virginia State Auditor J.B. McCuskey met with city leaders in Fairmont, Clarksburg and Shinnston on Tuesday to discuss a new piece of legislation the auditor plans to propose.
McCuskey plans to propose changes to how dilapidated and run-down structures are handled throughout the state.
The auditor, who also serves as the land commissioner, said it’s very important to make sure dilapidated structures are taken care of properly.
“So, this is important for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a public safety issue. Second and importantly, it’s a property value issue. So, if you are somebody who loves and takes care of your home, but the person next to you doesn’t and this home becomes dilapidated or delinquent, it lowers your property value in a way that you can’t control,” said Auditor McCuskey.
According to city officials in north central West Virginia, the main problem with demolition for dilapidated structures in the area is the cost.
“The problem is the funding. Everything boils down to the dollar, and this is no different. You got to have a fund, which, Shinnston has developed a fund, but it just takes off the tip of the iceberg. It’s not the grand money that we need to finish this project,” said Shinnston Mayor Pat Kovalck.
Mayor Kovalck estimates that around 10-15 houses in Shinnston are beyond repair and are in need of being torn down.
According to a press release from the auditor’s office, some of the key features of the bill when it is planned to be proposed include:
- Incentivizing ownership and repurposing of abandoned lands
- Offering a hardship plan to allow for repayment arrangements or tax forgiveness when one or more conditions are met
- Creating a statewide uniform process for collection and enforcement of property taxes
- Changing the methodology for calculating interest and penalties for redeemed taxes
- Shorting the lengthy exisitng time periods for redeeming delinquent taxes and returning abandoned property back to the books before it comes uninhabitable.
The Auditor is also working with the Governor’s Office to establish a fund with $50 million for demolition projects throughout the state and working with the legislature and interested parties, to bid demolition projects together to be as efficient as possible and help the state save money.
Auditor McCuskey said he plans to bring this proposal up during the next West Virginia legislative session, which starts on Wednesday, Jan. 12.