Yesterday, the WV Board of Public Works, the state committee of elected department heads that taxes gas, water and electric utilities, decided to scrap the tax cut planned by the State Tax Department. A couple of weeks ago, we learned that the State Tax Department recommended a reduction in the assessed value for all utility personal property in the state by $41 million for 2012. On Thursday, the BPW rejected that plan and, instead, raised the utilities’ valuation by $254 million, a much more reasonable figure.
Afterward, the board gave final approval to the 2012 property assessments for utilities operating in the state, at a total value of $8.46 billion, an increase of $253.95 million from 2011.
Under state law, the board — made up of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, agriculture commissioner, attorney general and superintendent of schools — must approve annual property valuations for all utilities operating in the state, including water, natural gas, electric and telephone companies, as well as railroads.
While most of the increased taxes on utility property can be passed on to utility customers through the WV PSC process or other regulatory agencies, utilities must still apply for this cost recovery which is subject to review by regulators and the public.
Having utilities taxed at special rates and managed from Charleston is bad enough. We don’t need the State Tax Department giving them additional breaks by artificially reducing their assessed values.