AND THEN AGAIN………… Tamara Pettit

……While we think of June, July and August as those “lazy, hazy days of summers”, there’s a lot more going on than crickets chirping and lightning bugs lighting up the night. The Convention & Visitors Bureau has a full concert schedule featured on Friday nights at the Weirton Event Center. The Community Improvement Council in Newell has events scheduled at Laurel Park and plan to repeat their popular splash parade. Not only does Chester have events at Davis Park, but the rundown of the full day of events at the July 4th celebration in Chester is now out. We plan to feature each in the coming weeks so you can plan your social schedule.

…….July is also the beginning of the new fiscal year for municipalities, boards of education and county commissioners so June is a busy month for those preparing the budget. I served 11 years on the House of Delegates Finance Committee so I’ve been through countless budget hearings and know how critical budget review is to these entities. I also know that Federal and State dollars complicate those budgets and the influx of tax dollars waxes and wanes none more so than the School Board Budget. Finance Director Joe Campanelli and his department do a fine job of not only preparing the budget, but explaining it to Board members and the public.

……One of the things that surprised me when I transitioned from a delegate asking questions during a meeting to a journalist mandated to keep her mouth shut during meetings was how hard it was to do so. In the beginning I forgot and voted on an issue once in a while. Sitting super focused on the questions, you sometimes pick up that the person asking the question has asked it before. If we were in a legal deposition instead of a public meeting, opposing counsel would object by simply saying “asked and answered” and that would prevent a redundant explanation. Last week’s Board of Education was one of those times, when I wanted to shout out “asked and answered” as Board President Chris Gillette grilled Campanelli. I have a pretty rudimentary understanding of the State and County school budget and get a deer in the headlights look in my eye when I hear “Step 7” coming to me as a question, but the explanations on the budget as submitted to be adopted were pretty clear. The Board met Friday morning for a session to again go over the budget. The budget is only adopted at the County level. It is then sent to the State where it is approved.

…….Like our personal budget, public budgets are fluid documents. That’s why a seasoned finance person is so valuable. They know that if tax projections are ahead of the game in a month, a deficit in another area isn’t a concern.

……..The Board of Education and the County Commissioners both gave their nod of approval to the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Nucor although Commissioner Eron Chek voted no. The acceptance by both the county and the school system is merely a gesture of good will and NUCOR presents the PILOT agreement as a gesture of good will to show they will be a good neighbor. The decision is made down state by the State Economic Development Authority and locally facilitated by the BDC who takes ownership of the land and the structures and then leases both the property and structures to NUCOR. The BDC is a non-profit and therefore exempt from property tax.

…….Enticing business and industry to the State using in this manner has been pretty common and at times controversial. In the Nineties such practices came under fire when a few businesses pushed heavily by Jay Rockefeller came for a few years and left. A similar problem existed in Ohio County when Call Centers were established and folded their tents after a few years.

……..Looks to me, however, that the NUCOR deal is solid and the trans loader facility will attract other companies to the area surrounding it. As a State, West Virginia is sometimes at a disadvantage in competing for business and this maneuver sometimes draws the business to our State.

…….At the same time, progress continues on the hydro plant in New Cumberland. Going through some old pictures and news clippings last week, I came across news articles on a bill that would take away the power of a municipality to level a B&O tax at a hydro plant. That bill was defeated. I also came across a letter to the Editor about the Minor Boundary Change bill I sponsored which allowed New Cumberland to annex the area of the Hydro Plant in a much simpler way. It kind of accused me of dealing in smoke and mirrors in saying the passage of the bill would make a big difference. It didn’t happen right away. In fact, it took 20 years and I’d pretty much given up on it, but its happening. I want to say to the doubter who wrote the letter to the editor “Oh ye of little faith”. The hydroplant will make a big difference to New Cumberland coffers and little town that struggled for years deserves it!

……..Both New Cumberland and Chester city councils meet Monday night at 5 p.m. This marks New Cumberland’s inaugural meeting in their new City Building on River Avenue.