Morgantown Monongalia Annexation Plans?

Obviously the city’s main revenue problem is the vast amount of B&O tax, also property tax and now service fee tax, uncollected just outside the city boundaries yet within the concentrated urban population.

Where is the city’s annexation policy that the city’s Comprehensive Plan slates for immediate creation by the city council? (See LM 10.4 on page 106 of the Comprehensive Plan) (Also see LM 10.5 on page 106 and ED 6.2 on page 115).

Where are even the attempts at cooperative efforts of city-county annexation planning? Cooperative city-county annexation would 

1) stimulate the local/regional economy; 
2) vastly improve local/regional public revenue generation, for services and infrastructure;
3) provide zoning to manage growth; 
4) provide urban county residents with political representation where they lack it currently; 
5) improve city-county relations;
6) possibly prevent the large Haymaker Forest bordering 3 of the city’s 7 Wards from being destroyed by reckless growth entirely counter to the Plans;
7) greatly improve local/regional quality of life, in many ways. 

The alternative?: worsening local/regional chaos and crumbled conditions, greater ecological destruction and continued public poverty. 

Now that the local/regional population continues to boom, having grown more in the past 10-15 years in the immediate Morgantown area than it grew in the previous 50, while city and county budgets both remain at 2008 levels, there is no turning away from an organized series of cooperative city-county annexations, unless gross government dysfunction and continued public poverty is the goal. Remember: wide latitude is given to County Commission annexation decisions.

The city and the county lack money due largely to their own failings, and only in part due to the failings of the state. This financial void breaks down in part as follows, from local to state, immediate to longer term:

  • Morgantown’s lack of a dedicated revenue stream to parks and recreation, allowed by state code but non-existent locally (see Charleston County’s fantastic greenbelt example);
  • Morgantown’s lack of annexation of several commercial corridors and residential areas and more, which would generate tremendous revenue, especially B&O and property taxes but now also multi-million dollar service fees given the recent passage of the streets and police fee;
  • failure to incorporate Brookhaven (pop. 5000+) and Cheat Lake (pop 8000) as cities, or to annex into Morgantown;
  • lack of public banking (at the city, county, and/or state level) – the absence of a public bank bleeds away bank fees and bank profits from the public and undercuts community investment in multiple ways;
  • lack of progressive taxation, not least in regard to income and the severance tax. (This is the main state issue.)

Remedy the above, and the end result should mean a doubling or more of local/regional public revenue for services and infrastructure, coupled with the badly needed expansion of zoning that would greatly improve the public’s capacity to manage development and to protect green space and to better quality of life.

The city and county have no financial plan – nor zoning plan for managed development – remotely as promising or effective as the measures above.

The city and county need to act now to meet the growing pressures.

In a vast and woefully incomplete understatement, WVU’s College of Business and Economics notes at the very end of its 2014 report, “Morgantown, West Virginia: How Does the City’s Economy Compare to Other College Towns?”:

While this report has shed light on how Morgantown fares along four key dimensions, more research is needed to fully understand the city’s economy and possible public and business policy initiatives that could improve the city’s economy further in the longrun. Additional areas that should be examined in future research include the following: local government structure and budget; tax rates and other tax incentives for economic development; local urban planning policy; crime and public safety; and small business formulation and growth.

No adequate, let alone full, understanding of the city’s economy and future prospects – not least for small business – is remotely possible without reckoning with the local/regional plunge into chaos and public poverty due to dire lack of annexation (and possibly auto-incorporation) of concentrated urban swaths (and census designated population areas such as Brookhaven and Cheat Lake), which have been allowed to remain technically and perversely outside of any city boundary, to crippling effect locally and by now regionally. Take a look. Such areas mainly languish, decay, or descend into chaos and congestion to everyone’s detriment, or where in limited areas they prosper they do so largely at public expense.

Do the county and the city want to double public revenue, or not? The pressing needs for services and infrastructure and management of unprecedented growth clearly call for it. The required tools are at city and county disposal.

Is WVU capable of seeing that it has a major stake in these precise specifics as well? Potential WVU actions in coordination would provide an exciting magnifier effect. The opportunity is there now.

Public banking should go hand-in-glove with long overdue annexation, both facilitating and greatly enhancing all revenue generating effects and prospects for the future.

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