The City of Morgantown and Monongalia County both would benefit greatly by the City of Morgantown’s annexation of the Green Bag Road corridor, the Mileground corridor, the Route 705 corridor, the Morgantown Industrial Park, and other commercial and urban pockets of the greater Morgantown area that technically are located in the County but that by and large are engulfed by the City and depend greatly on the well-being of the City and surrounds for quality of conditions and prosperity in general. These technically County businesses and residents, though basically engulfed by the City, do not contribute the Business & Occupation taxes and property taxes to the City that are paid by the area residents and businesses located technically within the City boundaries, thus gutting the public budget of the City of Morgantown and surrounds.
These two types of taxes (B&O and property) make up over half the budget of the City of Morgantown. These are the taxes that are in effect taken out of what should be a much larger City budget: these taxes are essentially stripped out of the public budget by not being allowed in, in the first place. The technically county businesses keep (don’t pay) the B&O taxes, which is the type of revenue that accounts for nearly half the city budget every year. And the City receives no portion of the property tax from the technically county residences even though they have a Morgantown address and are often nearly encircled by City borders. Instead, those property taxes go entirely to the County Commission.
This is how the public budget of the City of Morgantown is basically robbed of tens of millions of dollars per year, every year, and has been for decades, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars by now that should have been used to meet the pressing public needs of Morgantown and surrounds. And so it is that annexation is the main way to fund and expand and improve public services and infrastructure and quality of life many times over in the City of Morgantown and beyond.
Of course no one ever said that the City of Morgantown did petition (the legal procedure) the County Commission for annexation in recent memory, even though the City Council has been repeatedly urged to do so over the years by concerned citizens. The reason that City Council members have given, in the past, for their unwillingness to petition the County Commission is that the Commission was strongly opposed to annexation, and thus that the process would be expensive and fruitless. And the evidence bears that out, to a very large degree.
For example, the Monongalia County Commission for years actively opposed and blocked the City of Westover’s repeated attempts to annex the Morgantown Mall and surrounds. However, the City of Westover recently finally won annexation of the Mall and area, extending Westover city boundaries significantly. And now an overwhelmingly new group of Morgantown City Councilors has been elected who understand the vital importance of annexation to the City of Morgantown’s well-being, as well as to the quality of life and prosperity of the larger Morgantown area.
By now a majority of City Councilors have indicated that they understand the tremendous importance of extending the City borders via annexation. In particular, this can be accomplished by way of the legal form of annexation written into state code (that is, state law) as Minor Boundary Adjustment, which provides the City Council the opportunity to petition the County Commission for annexation of adjacent and often city-engulfed, commercial and residential pockets and corridors.
However, as far as anyone knows, and by all appearances, and to the extensive harm and disservice to the public, the Monongalia County Commission remains staunchly opposed to such annexation. Nevertheless, the City of Morgantown has a deep obligation to its residents to vigorously pursue the badly needed annexation that would greatly improve the size of the City budget, the size of the revenue streams, and therefore finally allow for the funding of long neglected public needs – both infrastructure and services – in the City neighborhoods, streets, parks, and beyond.
Annexation is key. It is central to addressing public concerns and the basic problems of the public in Morgantown and surrounds. Given the serious public needs, the City of Morgantown’s budget of about $38 million is puny. Proper extension of the city’s borders by way of Minor Boundary Adjustment annexation could improve the City’s budget by tens of millions of dollar per year, and begin to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars that past Morgantown City Councils and Monongalia County Commissions failed to work together to collect and to use for the public good.
The time to fully fund the pressing needs of the area public is now. The Monongalia County Commission has fought this type of badly needed annexation for far too long. Annexation is the fundamental public issue in the area, and it is long since time for the officials and the public to act to get it done. Thanks to last years’ City Council election, the City of Morgantown appears at long last to be ready and willing to move forward in this regard. And the County Commission? Unfortunately, the City Council should expect to be opposed by the County Commission in any substantial annexation requests. Denial of City annexation petitions by the County Commission would continue the ongoing gutting of the City public budget to meet public needs in the City of Morgantown and surrounds.
The time is now. Annexation is the fundamental public issue of this area. As City Council and the City of Morgantown move forward, the Monongalia County Commission needs to do its responsible part for the public and not block the City of Morgantown from extending its borders to where the public badly needs them to be, and needed them to be decades ago, already. In the meantime, the City is forced to turn to other ways to generate revenue to meet public needs, including: raising the fire fee, implementing the user fee, and proposing referendums to address many public problems and concerns.
The City of Morgantown, also Westover, could have and should have moved forward long ago in meeting its many public needs, especially if the Monongalia County Commission had not been so terribly opposed to such badly needed growth and progress of the City of Westover and the City of Morgantown. Such irresponsible opposition to annexation by the County Commission hurts local county residents as well and the county in general, in addition to the pain and damage it inflicts on the area cities and city residents.