Home Rule Request Nears

MOUNDSVILLE – Residents have another opportunity to voice their views on Moundsville City Council’s plans to enact a 0.5-percent sales tax and gain the authority to demolish dilapidated buildings by participating in the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program.

Council members David Wood, Ginger DeWitt, K. Mark Simms, Phil Remke, Paul Haynes and David Haynes, along with Mayor Eugene Saunders, will consider the second reading of the measure to submit the home rule application at their 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the Municipal Building, 800 Sixth St.

During council’s April 1 meeting, Wood, DeWitt, Simms, Remke and Saunders voted 5-0 to approve the initial reading in the effort for Moundsville to become one of 16 additional home rule cities throughout West Virginia after the Legislature voted to expand the program last year. Councilmen Paul Haynes and David Haynes missed this meeting due to personal reasons.

Via home rule, Moundsville seeks the opportunity 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 – 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.

“These are things that we want to do, but it is very broad,” said City Attorney Thomas White.

Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport received the right to home rule in 2008. Wheeling recently used its home rule authority to apply a 0.5-percent sales tax, though initial revenue projections have not come to fruition.

In Moundsville’s application, officials state their belief that the city’s retail businesses are “able to support a small increase in sales tax,” which they believe could replace some of their B&O revenue if they reduced this tax rate.

Saunders estimates the city of 9,173 residents has about 40 dilapidated structures, including one on Poplar Avenue that has a tree growing through it. He and others believe home rule will give Moundsville more authority to see that property owners either repair or demolish their blighted structures.

White said even if the state’s home rule accepts Moundsville into the program, City Council would need to pass individual ordinances for each of the provisions to become law.