Home Rule Plan Moves Forward

MOUNDSVILLE – Vice Mayor David Wood told concerned residents Tuesday that if participation in the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program allows City Council to impose a 0.5-percent sales tax, members would offset this by reducing business and occupation taxes.

Following weeks of public discourse, council members Ginger DeWitt, Phil Remke, Paul Haynes, along with Mayor Eugene Saunders and Wood, voted 5-0 to submit Moundsville’s application to the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board for consideration. Councilmen K. Mark Simms and David Haynes were absent.

City Attorney Thomas White said the state board will begin evaluating the plans presented by multiple cities seeking home rule on June 1. Sixteen additional Mountain State cities will be able to join Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport by gaining the authority.

“The application must be there by June 1, but we’ll have it there before then,” White said.

Via home rule, Moundsville wants the right to impose a 0.5-percent sales tax, which leaders believe could yield more than $1 million worth of annual revenue; have the flexibility to determine business and occupation tax rates; repair, alter or demolish properties that owners are unable to – or unwilling to – maintain; increase the city’s power to collect delinquent fees, with officials now estimating they have more than $253,000 worth of fees that are more than 90 days past due; and reduce the number of business licenses from 45 to only a few.

However, not everyone believes these are good ideas, particularly city residents Frank and Carl Boso.

“A sales tax for a city is a hidden tax. You don’t know how much that is going to bring in,” Frank Boso said. “My concern here tonight is that I think expenses are out of control.”

“I don’t think home rule is good either,” Carl Boso added.

However, Wood and Saunders assured residents council members will carefully evaluate any ordinance they would look to pass via home rule.

“As a council, we would not put our city in jeopardy. If we are accepted, we are going to take a good look at this,” Saunders said.

DeWitt added some constituents told her they hope council proceeds with home rule so some of the dilapidated buildings can be removed. Doing so, she said, would help increase the value of the surrounding properties.

Saunders estimates the city of 9,173 people has about 40 dilapidated structures.

Via home rule, cities can levy taxes or enact new laws as long as they do not contradict the U.S. or West Virginia constitutions or violate portions of West Virginia Code dealing with the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, crimes and punishments and criminal procedures.

Also Tuesday, council voted 5-0 to approve the property tax levy rates for the fiscal year 2015 budget, which council approved at $6.64 million last month. Kathryn Goddard, a certified public accountant who works as the city’s finance director, said the rates remain the same as in the 2014 fiscal year, including: Class I (agricultural property, including livestock and farm equipment) – 12.04 cents for every $100 of value; Class II (residential property) – 24.08 cents for every $100 of value; and Class IV (anything that does not fit in Class I or II; Class III is outside a municipality, while Class IV is inside a municipality) – 48.16 cents for every $100 of worth.

Council’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. May 6 in council chambers at the Municipal Building, 800 Sixth St.