MORGANTOWN – Monongalia County Commissioners are confident the county will be able to weather the financial impacts of the economic shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to budget decisions made months and even years before “social distancing” became part of the vernacular.
The county is anticipating a loss of $1.8 million dollars in tax revenue through the end of the fiscal year, which runs through June 30. That includes lost revenues generated through hotel/motel taxes, retail sales taxes, video lottery taxes.
“This is a county that has fiscal responsibility,” emphasized Commission President Ed Hawkins during a guest appearance on WAJR’s Talk of the Town with Dave & Sarah. “Our expenditures have been reduced over the last three years and if you look at what’s happened in the budget, we’ve cut the property taxes over the last three years.”
Over that time, Monongalia County Commissioners and staff scoured the budget trimming out unnecessary spending keeping the county’s property tax rate among the lowest in the state. Commissioners also prioritized building a fully funded contingency fund. State law allows for counties to set aside up to 10 percent of their budgets into a rainy day fund.
Monongalia County has approximately $3.5 million in the contingency fund, if needed, as everyone awaits the trigger to jumpstart economy.
“What we’re hoping, of course, our losses will be covered by the federal government when we apply for it but even if it is not, this county has the ability to withstand what other counties do not,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins’ biggest concern at this point in time, is the fates of smaller businesses in the county if the shutdown continues for several more weeks or even months. Options are limited for what county commissioners are able to offer in the way of relief for small businesses and Hawkins pointed out trying to determine which businesses would qualify for some type of a local relief package would be nearly impossible.
Admittedly, there are many more questions than answers right now about how the state will reopen and what that will look like. Hawkins avoided making any definitive statements about what may lie ahead for the county, residents and local businesses but he did make one promise.
“We will work in all earnest to do the best week can for all of Monongalia County.”