CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A committee substitute bill heading to the full Senate floor may help Monongalia County Commissioners get the answers they need relating to a missing $500,000.

“The county is now going to be able to get the same information the municipalities get, which is what we wanted,” said Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom.

The substitute for S.B. 275, sponsored by Sen. Charles Clements (R – Wetzel, 02), received unanimous recommendation for passage from the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday in Charleston. The bill clarifies uncertain portions of state code in relation to remittance of taxes for retail liquor and wine sales in counties and municipalities.

Bloom said it’s a win for County Commissioners, Monongalia County residents, and people across the state. The Commission President said this bill is likely to be a major factor in resolving an ongoing question over missing tax dollars from retail liquor and wine — resulting in two quarters in 2013 and 2014 where Monongalia County didn’t receive a single penny from the tax.

“We have to move forward so this never happens again,” Bloom said. “That problem will be resolved.”

It’s not a guarantee that this legislation, if passed, will help Commissioners discover why the county failed to receive a single dollar in retail liquor and wine sales tax during the final quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. Bloom did say the bill, which eliminates a provision allowing for municipalities to collect related taxes on retail liquor and wine up to one mile outside of corporate limits, would likely prevent future mistakes.

“Do away with the one mile radius,” Bloom said. “So that if it’s sold in the city, it goes to the city. And if sold in the county, it goes to the county. That clarifies that problem.”

Clements, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the close proximity of Morgantown, Westover, and Star City has made life difficult in terms of determining who is owed what in Monongalia County.

“You’ve got areas there where cities run up against one another,” he said. “They just need to make sure the money is going where it should go.”

The bill permits the Tax Commissioner to share information with counties in the same manner current law permits such information sharing for municipalities. Sen. Bob Beach said that was long overdue.

“That one mile buffer was causing a great deal of headaches for our community, along with the Tax Department,” said Beach (D – Monongalia, 13). “I’ll just call it like it is. They do not want to share those numbers.”

Beach, who also serves on Senate Judiciary, said he and Sen. Clements were both alarmed by the tax remittance situation, which clearly appeared to be a major error.

“(Commissioners) didn’t share with us numbers, except for the month where they received no tax dollars,” Beach said.

Even with the changes, which Bloom believes would prevent future problems like the issues in 2013 and 2014, there’s still a question as to whether Commissioners will be able to retroactively determine the final destinatino of the missing tax dollars.

“If it is approved, are we permitted to go back to 2013 and follow the trail?” Bloom said.

“Our Commissioners have tried to work with the Tax Department to no avail,” Beach said. “I think this is a solution that will fix the problem rather quickly, and we can all move forward, and everybody will get the money they deserve.”

Senator Mike Romano (D – Harrison, 12) also successfully inserted an amendment allowing County Commissioner’s greater access to information related to Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.

The Senate returns to session 11 a.m. Monday morning.

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