A Stover farmer and his wife appeared at the regular meeting of Raleigh County Commission on Tuesday to ask commissioners to solve a deadline dilemma that has left them with a $1,800 tax bill over the next two years — an increase the couple said they do not deserve.
Farmer John Woisehovich, told Raleigh Commission President Dave Tolliver and Commissioner Linda Epling during the public participation segment that he and his wife, Brenda, had mailed a required Farm Census report to the Raleigh Assessor's Office in 2018 — a step that they had taken every year for the past 10 years with no issue.
Woisehovich said he was shocked when he went to the courthouse to pay his taxes in March and learned that his property in Sand Lick had increased by $487. And the couple's property in Stover had increased by $337. According to Stover, the increases meant that he would pay $900 total more in taxes each year.
Woisehovich said he was told by a Raleigh assessor's office representative that his property taxes had increased because the county had not received a 2018 Farm Census report that is required if land is used for farming. The missing communication ultimately resulted in a higher tax.
"We mailed this report, definitely mailed it," Woisehovich told Tolliver and Epling. "This was something I was always careful about.
"We mailed the report as we had in previous years, something like 10 years," he added. "Did we realize they had not received it?
"No," Woisehovich said. "Because of them not receiving the 2018 report, we were removed from the system and did not get a mail in 2019."
Due to the missing 2018 report, the Woisehovich land was not classified as farming property, and the couple did not get a notification in 2019 reminding them to file appropriate farming paperwork for 2019 taxes.
"We were not aware of this and still operating both properties as a farm," he said. "We did not realize this and just figured it was not needed.
"I'd say a lot of people would've done such a thing," Woisehovich added. "We were also told nothing could be done about it because the deadline was not met.
"My mind tells me there's always something that could be done."
Woisehovich, who is one of 260 farmers in Raleigh County, according to statements made during the public meeting, told commissioners of a frustrating bureaucratic journey that was enhanced by office closures related to COVID-19.
He had kept a list — which he produced — of the offices he had contacted and the responses of those officers.
Woisehovich and his wife provided farm crop reports for 2017 and 2018, along with copies of their farm's profits and losses and tax returns to various officials in hopes of giving enough private information to incite some office to help.
Once he learned the report had not reached the assessor, he said, he asked to have it amended. He said he was told that a deadline had passed, so he contacted the state tax commissioner, the United States Department of Agriculture office on Ragland Road, Raleigh Assessor Linda Sumner, County Attorney Bill Roop, the Raleigh commission, the Bureau of Farm Census and the West Virginia attorney general's office.
Ultimately, he ended up before Tolliver and Epling and county attorney Bill Roop in Beckley on Tuesday morning.
"It looks like all departments leads back to the county commission," Woisehovich told them. "That's the reason I'm here today."
At the suggestion of a member of the Farm Census, the farmer filled out and mailed a 2018-2019 Farm Census Report as an amendment report for the assessor's office. Brenda Woisehovich said the couple was waiting to file the amended report because they were told by one official that it may not be appropriate.
"We want to see if it would do good before we filed it," she explained.
Roop said the assessor's office must file an exoneration to correct the matter, and then it goes to commission.
"We're requesting your help in this matter," said the farmer. "We felt it is a severe punishment for human error, and with no way to determine whose error.
"I don't believe it's a scam," he added. "I believe it's an honest mistake that's going to cost me $900 for one more year.
"That's $1,800," Woisehovich noted. "Hell, if I sell five calves, I don't even get that."
Tolliver and Roop said county administrator Jeff Miller would call the Woisehovichs.
"I will wait for the call, but I am so adamant about going with this," said Woisehovich.
"It's driving him crazy," Brenda interjected.
Commissioner Ron Hedrick was not at the Tuesday meeting due to travel, Tolliver said.
In other actions:
n Commission approved a budget revision request from the Raleigh Sheriff's Office to move $127,600 from the salaries, wages, travel, training, education, professional services, court costs, damages and investigation expense line items to contracted service materials and supplies and computer software.
n Commission approved a budget revision from the Sheriff's Office to move $5,881 from travel, training and education to materials and supplies.
n Commission approved the hiring of Glenna Lafferty of Glen Daniels at the sheriff's tax office in Glen Daniels.
n Commission approved the hiring of Kurt Gillespie at the Raleigh clerk's office. Deputy Clerk Cecilia Chapman said Gillespie has been working as a part-time employee.
n Commission changed the polling location for Precinct 84/Glade Springs in Daniels from Perry Memorial United Methodist Church to Shady Spring Pentecostal Holiness Church at 2952 Ritter Drive in Shady Spring. Voting will be in the church fellowship hall behind the church, effective May 19, 2020.
n Commission approved an abandoned buildings ordinance. There was no public participation or discussion.
n Commission approved the 2020 tax year personal property and real estate tax books.
n Commission approved a routine inter-agency agreement with the City of Beckley and Raleigh Solid Waste Authority which allows the county to dispose of abandoned buildings more quickly.
n Commission approved the Department of Corrections monthly grant report. County administrator Miller said the monthly amount was $36,250 for personnel contracts. To date, the department has spent $138,686 of an annual grant of $209,693.
n Commission approved a minor boundary adjustment request by Jeff and Kristy Taylor of Soak Creek, who requested that 1.3 acres of their personal property be annexed into the City of Sophia. No public roadways were affected by the adjustment.
n Commission agreed to sponsor a grant request for $69,000 in CARES Act funding for Raleigh County Memorial Airport.
n Commission approved the moving of $157,500 of $2.4 million in Abandoned Mine Lands funding to an escrow account. The $157,500 will be used prior to June 30, 2020, to buy land – about 15 miles of former railway – from CSX Railroad to complete a Rails to Trails project in Clear Fork. The county had previously put down $17,500 of the money, Miller said.