Weirton Chamber Opposes Change To Tax Structure

WEIRTON – The Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce will reiterate its opposition to changes in the city’s tax structure during a meeting today.

The organization has called an open membership meeting for noon today, to be followed by a press conference at 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Three Springs Drive. The events come after Weirton City Council voted 3-2 last week, with one abstention, to approve an ordinance to amend the business and occupation tax in accordance with a budget scenario proposed by Councilman David Dalrymple.

The vote came after nearly six months of budget workshops and committee meetings aimed at resolving a projected $1.6 million shortfall in the 2015-16 fiscal year using a variety of combinations of the B&O, the cable franchise fee, a potential sales tax and adjustments to the municipal service fee and police and fire service fees. The 2014-15 fiscal year begins July 1.

Citizens were allowed to comment before the vote took place, and several business owners took the opportunity to voice their displeasure.

Despite those comments, Dalrymple and councilmen Chuck Wright and George Ash Sr. voted yes to amend the ordinance, while councilmen Fred Marsh and Terry Weigel voted no. Councilman George Gaughenbaugh abstained.

Gaughenbaugh cited a “conflict of interest” for his abstention. He would not elaborate.

The ordinance will require a second reading to pass, and agenda items related to the other steps within Dalrymple’s plan are expected to see first readings at the next regular City Council meeting.

Dalrymple’s scenario proposes to enact the B&O tax, with most categories set to 25 percent of their maximum allowable rate. Existing B&O categories would remain the same, with production and utility categories set to 100 percent of the maximum allowable rate. The retail category would be set to 75 percent of the maximum allowable rate, which is 0.375 percent, with a $500,000 annual exemption. The service category would be set to 65 percent of the maximum allowable rate, which is 0.65 percent, with a $100,000 annual exemption. The contractor category would be set to 100 percent of the maximum allowable rate, which is 2 percent, with a $100,000 per project exemption.

The proposed scenario also would reduce the police and fire service fee by approximately 20 percent. Residential fees would decrease from $50 to $40. Commercial fees would decrease from 15 cents per square foot to 12 cents per square foot, and churches and schools would decrease from 8 cents per square foot to 6 cents per square foot.

The plan includes a stipulation that any excess funds superseding the projected $1.6 million budget gap will be used for security. According to Dalrymple, the proposal would generate an estimated $1.7 million in additional revenue.

City Attorney Vincent Gurrera said business owners may have the option to challenge the tax if it is passed.