How Should You Vote on Amendment One?

Oct 28, 2014

When you go to the polls on Election Day, or maybe before if you’re looking to vote early, there will be more than just candidates listed on your ballot. You’ll also be asked to decide whether or not West Virginia’s Constitution needs a change, but that question is not quite so clear. 

The Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County.
Credit wikimedia commons

Amendment One is titled the “Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Support Amendment” and in case you don’t think that is self explanatory, here’s what it means.

In its most simple terms, Amendment One would allow the Boy Scouts of America, a 501c3 nonprofit, to lease out its Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County to private organizations. The Scouts are exempt from paying property taxes on the multi-million dollar facility now because of their nonprofit status, but leasing the space would cause them to lose the exemption.

The Scouts say the change would allow them to attract major events into the area, like possibly the X-Games or major concerts.

“A good example is the Jamboree,” Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations for the Summit said.  

“When we threw the Boy Scout Jamboree in 2013, we spent over $2 million in the local communities around us, that’s direct spending from the Boy Scouts.”

But some local officials say the amendment privatizes the state’s Constitution for the benefit of a singular organization and with the declining participation in the Scouts, could give them an unfair advantage to local businesses if they’re forced into the market.

“What if that (declining) trend continues?” Fayette County Commissioner Matt Wender said.

“Let’s now assume that the revenues generated by scouting are not sufficient to pay the cost of operating and maintaining the Summit facility. What choice will the Scouts have but to compete aggressively in the marketplace to generate additional revenues to sustain the Summit?”

Wender added with the amendment in place, the Scouts could hurt the profits of businesses who, because they pay property taxes, support the county emergency and school systems.

So, according to Hartley and Wender, here’s the breakdown of how you should vote.

Vote Yes If:

  • You think the Boy Scouts of America should be able to lease out the Summit Bechtel Reserve to outside organizations for events without giving up their state property tax exemption.

Vote No If:

  • You think the amendment would give the Scouts an unfair advantage over area businesses in the future.