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W.Va. to Kanawha: We made $1.9M tax error on Winifrede coal reserves

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia tax officials told the Kanawha County Assessor's Office that they made a nearly $1.9 million mistake in calculating the appraisal for coal reserves near Winifrede.

Susan Ratliff, tax unit supervisor for the Mined Minerals Division of the state Tax Department, sent Kanawha officials a letter last week informing them of the error. According to the letter, a state geologist reviewing records in November for property owned by Bright Timberlands LLC near Winifrede noticed the coal property had been listed in the wrong category. The Tax Department determines taxes on minerals.

However, the appraisal for the property was not changed, the letter said. Ratliff recommended that county assessors change the 2012 tax appraisal on the property from more than $1.95 million to $67,655, a decrease of more than $1.88 million.

"That's going to pretty much wipe out that tax bill," said Steve Sluss, legal counsel for Kanawha Assessor Phyllis Gatson. "You're now looking at a $1,200 or $1,500 tax bill."

Under the previous appraisal, the property would have generated more than $250,000 in property taxes, Sluss said.

Just 17 cents of every dollar collected in local taxes goes to fund county government, with the bulk of the money going to the county school system. Sluss said the error will cost county government about $43,000 in tax revenue.

County schools will lose more than $200,000.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said county officials would review the appraisals for the property, but added that, if state tax officials really made a clerical error in calculating the taxes, the commission has little choice but to approve the new appraisal amount.

"There was never an explanation for what happened," Carper said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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