CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Critics called on legislators Tuesday to repeal or modify a law, scheduled to take effect on July 1, that would cut funding to county school systems if the county's property tax assessments are too low.
"We ... call it the "punish-the-assessor, punish-the-school-board bill," Patti Hamilton, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Counties, said of the new law. "A school board would be punished for actions of an assessor over which they have no control."
Under the law, county boards of education will receive an 8 percent cut in state funding under the state School Aid Formula any time the county's property tax assessments fall below 54 percent of fair market value.
J.P. Mowery, business manager for Pendleton County Schools, called the law troubling, since school boards have no oversight over the actions of county assessors.
"From a school board's perspective, we can't control the valuations of property," Mowery told an interim Committee on Finance. "School boards could be penalized for something we have no control over."
Jerry Knight, a property tax consultant, said the law is flawed because it treats a statistical figure as a literal number.
He said that, even at the highest confidence level, a median assessed value can have a 10 percent variance from the actual value, meaning a county could be penalized for falling below 54 percent when the actual figure could be as high as 58 percent.
Under state law, property is to be assessed at 60 percent of fair market value for tax purposes.
Knight agreed that the law is unfair because it punishes school systems for errors or omissions made by county assessors.