After two-year push, county sees early bump in wine and liquor tax revenue

MORGANTOWN — If, as the saying goes, time is money, the Monongalia County Commission banked more than two years pushing for information and legislative changes tied to how the state’s wine and liquor taxes are distributed.
Now the first returns are in, and according to members of the commission, the investment was worth it.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Commission President Tom Bloom said the county received $49,806 in wine and liquor tax revenue for the first quarter of 2019. That’s more than it received in the first quarter of the last five years combined ($45,184.)
If that pattern continues, Bloom said it could mean as much as $200,000 in additional revenue for the county.
“This is what we’ve been hoping for. These are funds that should have been staying here,” Bloom said. “I’m thrilled we were able to get this done.”
State code stipulates 5 percent of the purchase price of retail liquor and wine sales, and wine sales from private clubs, is sent back to the county or municipality where the sale occurred.
As previously reported, the commission believes it could have been shorted more than $500,000 in lost tax revenue in recent years, with the most dramatic example being a six-month period from October 2013-March 2014, during which Monongalia County received no funds.
The county tried unsuccessfully starting in January 2017 to get answers from state tax officials, who maintained the county did not have standing to request such data.
However, during the 2018 legislative session, Monongalia County successfully pushed a bill that gave counties authority to request information tied to the collection of the tax.
The bill also eliminated a stipulation in state code that gives wine and liquor taxes to municipalities from businesses located up to one mile outside their boundaries.
“When we finally were able to speak with representatives from the tax office, they thanked us,” Commissioner Ed Hawkins said, noting there are businesses in Monongalia County that are within a mile of three or four municipalities. “We had no idea if they were dividing that money or where it was going because they wouldn’t provide the information to us. Now, it’s either in a municipality or it’s in the county.”
First quarter wine and liquor taxes remitted to the county rose from $14,936 in 2018 to $49,806 this year.
Similarly, first quarter numbers rose for Granville ($44,474 to $47,049); Star City ($1,538 to $4,183) and Westover ($13,173 to $16,373), but fell dramatically for Morgantown — from $288,782 in the first quarter of 2018 to $178,537 in the first quarter of 2019.
Countywide, the total dropped from $363,121 in the first quarter of  2018, to $296,026 in 2019

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