Final Vote on Sales Tax Tuesday

WHEELING – The public will have one last chance to weigh in on Wheeling’s proposed 0.5-percent sales tax before City Council votes on it Tuesday afternoon.

A council meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the first floor of the City-County Building will open with three public hearings – one on the sales tax, another on a corresponding reduction in the city’s Business and Occupation Tax and a third concerning the proposed extension of Youth Services System Inc.’s lease of the former Lincoln School, where it operates the Northern Regional Juvenile Detention Center. All three items are up for a vote Tuesday.

In addition to imposing the sales tax, the city wants to reduce the B&O tax rate for retail businesses by 26 percent and eliminate it altogether on manufacturing and amusements – moves Mayor Andy McKenzie believes will improve Wheeling’s business climate while still keeping its sales tax lower than that in neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania. Groceries, vehicles and gasoline would be exempt from the municipal tax.

If enacted Tuesday, the sales tax could go into effect Oct. 1. That should give the state enough time to notify businesses of their obligation to collect it.

The city expects to collect $2.66 million in annual sales tax revenue, based on an estimated $532 million in annual sales subject to the tax. The state Tax Department likely would keep 1 percent of that to defray its costs for administering the tax, leaving about $2.4 million.

Combined with an expected $1 million loss in B&O revenue, the tax code changes would result in a projected $1.4 million increase in revenue. City officials have pledged to spend half of that to address infrastructure needs and the other half to upgrade WesBanco Arena.

Language in the proposed ordinance calls for creation of a special account to hold sales tax collections, but would allow the city to transfer money to its general revenue account after meeting any debt obligations.

The city held another public hearing on the sales tax last month before voting to send its plan to the state Municipal Home Rule Board for approval. Two residents spoke in favor of the tax, with none against.

Council also will vote on spending a total of $300,000 with 10 different companies to purchase chemicals for the water treatment plant, and paying James White Construction of Weirton about $150,000 to replace water taps underneath Main and Market Streets near Market Plaza. They also will vote on whether to eliminate the two-hour parking restriction on 13th, Jacob and Byron streets near Wheeling Central Catholic High School’s gymnasium; establish a handicapped parking space in front of 1903 Warwood Ave.; and create no parking zones on the west side of Ridge Street, in the alley on Lane 14 and across from 13 Pallister Road.