- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Staff shortages driven by low salaries are making it difficult for the West Virginia Tax Department to perform its duties, a state tax official told lawmakers Friday.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports (https://bit.ly/2mpzjbe) that assistant tax commissioner Danny Morgan told a House of Delegates panel Friday that the department has lost 18 percent of its personnel since 2013.

Morgan says the difficulty filling vacancies is also due to concerns that possible state budget cuts could spur layoffs.

Morgan says the public likely notices the shortages most when calling the understaffed Taxpayer Services, with call wait times reaching two hours.

“The fact of the matter is, I have 18 people trying to answer 350,000 calls,” Morgan said, referring to the number of calls received annually. “It’s not an ideal situation. We’d like to be able to get to calls faster.”

He noted a shortage of auditors because of a $29,400 starting salary, which contributes to high turnover. Private sector groups, and even a lot in the public sector, pay more, he said.

“You can get your 18 months in here, get your foot in the door, and double your salary,” Morgan said.

He said that every dollar spent in the auditing section translates into $200 in tax assessment collections.

Morgan says the department is proposing 5 percent annual raises for new hires and salary adjustments for employees with five or more years of service.

The department has absorbed general revenue budget cuts of almost 20 percent since 2013, he said.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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