Unheld Houses Across WV Will Fall As Senate Bill Passes

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) — Unmaintained homes across West Virginia could soon fall with the first major change to the state’s tax code since 1994.

West Virginia Municipal League mayors joined state auditor JB McCuskey on Monday in support of Senate Bill 552.

“It’s a statewide problem,” McCuskey said at a news conference.

“We all know that our cities don’t look like they should, don’t look like they used to, and don’t look like they could be.”

The legislation makes several changes to the state tax code.

According to McCuskey, the law creates a payment plan for any taxpayer who is having difficulty paying their current year’s taxes.

The legislation also revamps who can bid on neglected homes owned by the auditor’s office.

McCuskey said the first priority went to neighbors with dilapidated homes, followed by cities and counties to buy them.

St. Albans Fire Chief Lance Carney said incidents at abandoned homes can lead to a backlog of calls and pose risks to first responders.

“We find people in these houses, whether they’re squatters or whatever, our work doesn’t change even if a building is vacant or abandoned,” he said.

“First responders, firefighters in particular, are risking our lives to enter the building to make sure no one is there.”

Additionally, $10 million in U.S. bailout funding through Senate Bill 722 will allow the state to enter into contracts to reduce the cost of demolishing buildings.

St. Albans Mayor Scott James said the legislation creates opportunity.

“Our biggest limitation is finances because we have to worry about funding police and fire, parks and recreation, our street service and everything else,” he said.

“With this additional funding and working with the state and county, it’s really a burden on our shoulders.”

McCuskey said the process can start once the bill passes the rules committee.

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Norman D. Briggs