Welcome back to Wrong Side of the Mountain, my column about what makes life in Boone County good or bad depending on your perspective. So, I hope that each one of you has found a way to soak up some of the summer heat we've experienced over the last two weeks. I actually went two weeks without mowing my grass because it didn't grow without much rain. I actually enjoy yard work as it relaxes me in a similar way that playing music does.
Enough with the small talk. I was made aware of a situation in the Sheriff's Tax Office last week and I really wrestled with whether or not I should report on it this week but in the end, I felt a responsibility to do so.
Through a routine audit by the West Virginia State Auditor's Office, there were specific items that threw up red flags that eventually prevented Sheriff Randall White from collecting the maximum $15,000 commission he receives if all criteria from the state code are met.
Chapter 11 A of the West Virginia state code, more specifically 11A-1-17 clearly states that "After the sheriff has collected eighty-five percent of the combined total of all taxes assessed on real and personal property, he shall, in addition to the salary and compensation now authorized by law, be allowed a commission as follows: Two and one-half percent on the remainder of the taxes actually collected up to ninety percent of the combined total of all taxes assessed on real and personal property, three and one-half percent of the remainder collected above ninety percent and up to ninety-five percent of the combined total of all taxes assessed on real and personal property, and five percent on the remainder of taxes collected above ninety-five percent of the combined total of all taxes assessed on real and personal property. In all cases the taxes collected on which any commission shall be paid will be exclusive of interest and charges thereon, if the collection be made before the delinquent list has been approved by the county commission: Provided, That the total amount of commissions paid to any sheriff shall not exceed the sum of $15,000 in any one year. The commission so allowed shall be determined by the county commission and charged against the various funds for which the taxes are collected."
Okay, get all of that? It really isn't Algebra and if you think of it as multiple revenue streams that come together to provide one commission, it is easier to digest. Think of it as a car salesman collecting commissions from a large dealership on multiple manufacturers, but his check stub still shows a singular commission.
After I sent an email inquiring about the situation, which encapsulates fiscal year 2018-2019, I learned that White was able to collect zero in commission for the last fiscal year.
To his credit, or to the credit of the Boone County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, (or whoever crafted this) he did send me a statement via email that said, "Taxes collected for this period fell below the assigned values as per WV Code 11A-1-17. At this time my office has done and continues to do everything in their power that is required by law to collect taxes for this and all other periods. We are currently working with other counties and exploring further options that aren't required by law that may allow us to collect delinquent funds."
Let me be frank, I am all for this system. I think that it provides motivation for the office to collect the maximum and encourages transparency on the part of the office in general.
The thing that I find most disturbing is that at least two of our county commissioners were unaware of the situation when I questioned them about it. I find this to be reprehensible. Our county commission should be aware of every faction of county government. It is precisely this kind of internal lack of limpidness that makes government a huge ball of yarn.
If they (commissioners) are not privy to a situation like this, whether it be a minor snafu or a serious misrepresentation of collected taxes, it makes me question who is really running this county. This isn't the first time I have approached a commissioner about a situation and they look at me like I'm on fire.
Especially at a time when our county is facing a historic transformation, we need to be better than this.
A side note to all of this, I would venture to say that more cuts are coming in terms of Boone County employees and it could come as soon as the July 30 regular session. I look for each office to have to cut at least one more position before summer ends. I hope your week is good and your weekend is better. We'll talk again soon.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.