Gary Bunn: Tax fairness an important election issue
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.
You have heard the saying, "There are two things that are certain in life, death and taxes."
Entering the 2012 election season, Huntington city government continues to struggle with budget problems. Huntington, like many other cities, has been unable to replace manufacturing industries and related jobs that have been lost in the last 40 years. As a result, Huntington has not had the benefit of the previous tax base to maintain city services and infrastructure. The issue of fairness in taxes is an important issue facing the next City Council and mayor.
Specifically, Huntington currently has approximately $7 million in delinquent taxes and fees that require collection. This means that a significant number of businesses and individuals have failed to meet their tax obligations that other citizens and businesses make an effort to pay. This makes taxation in Huntington unfair. Taxes are needed for many of the important infrastructure and services, such as good roads, clean streets, refuse collection and fire and police protection to keep the city safe. We all benefit from these services. Huntington is struggling to maintain adequate services and safe levels of manpower. The collection of taxes has to be made fairer in application and collection, especially from those who are benefiting but not paying their taxes to maintain the services.
If I am elected to City Council, I will work with council and the mayor's office to promote an aggressive approach to collect delinquent taxes and to find new ways to enforce payment. Simply, the city needs to empower the legal staff and/or contract with a local law firm to pursue collection of delinquent taxes through the legal process. By filing civil lawsuits in the Cabell County court system and obtaining judgment, the city would have several enforcement options available through the courts. For example, the city could attach wages or attach real and/or personal property for judicial sale or file a lien that would require satisfaction prior to any transfer of real property. Another option would be for the city to enter into a written, legally enforceable payment agreement for payments to satisfy any money due the city. By being aggressive, the city could benefit by having more money for the annual fiscal budget.
To further "even the playing field," I will work with council and the mayor's office to determine if state legislation needs to be pursued that would give the city government even more effective means to collect delinquent taxes. For example, in some municipalities in other states, if you don't pay your municipal fees, your water is turned off. Here in West Virginia, if you don't pay your personal property taxes, you cannot renew your vehicle license decal/registration.
If elected, I look forward to the challenges ahead.
Gary Bunn is a Republican candidate for Huntington City Council from District 4.