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MAP TO PROSPERITY: How do neighboring states balance power and taxation?

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Two of West Virginia's neighbors take different approaches to the balance of power and taxation than West Virginia.

While West Virginia state government is highly centralized in a small state with a dispersed population, Ohio allows more local control. And Virginia allows its cities to stand apart from the counties surrounding them.

Ohio

Ohio has historically had decentralized government, coming in part from how the Northwest Territory was organized in the 1780s, before Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were admitted to the Union.

Ohio cities and villages have long had authority to levy income taxes. Among the municipalities along the West Virginia border with income taxes are Gallipolis with a 1 percent tax, Marietta with 1.7 percent and Steubenville with 2 percent.

School districts also may levy income taxes. Three districts in Columbiana County, which borders Hancock County, W.Va., have income taxes. School district income tax rates in Ohio range from .25 of 1 percent to a full 2 percent.

Ohio counties may levy a local sales tax in addition to the state sales tax of 5.75 percent, and all do. 

Ohio has nine counties on its border with West Virginia. Two of those set local sales tax rates of 1.25 percent. The other seven levy a 1.5 percent sales tax.

Cuyahoga County, which is where Cleveland is located, has the highest combined state and local sales tax rate at 8 percent.

Virginia

Virginia handles the tension between urban and rural areas in an entirely different way. Cities there can be independent of the counties that surround them.

The city of Winchester, Va., for example, has about 26,200 people. Frederick County, which surrounds it, has about 78,300 people. So in that respect it is similar to West Virginia's Monongalia County.

Amy Simmons, public information and Freedom of Information Act officer for the City of Winchester said the city does not rely on the county to supply most services, although it does partner with the county on some services, such as a regional jail.

The city of Winchester has a circuit judge, and its clerk issues marriage licenses and records deeds, although the city clerk and the county clerk are in the same building and share a phone number.

Winchester does not collect an income tax, payroll tax or user fee, but it does receive about $8.5 million a year from the state for sales taxes collected there.