Moundsville Seeks Home Rule to Add Sales Tax

MOUNDSVILLE – Moundsville city leaders estimate they could collect more than $1 million annually by imposing a 0.5-percent sales tax if approved for participation in the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program.

Monday, leaders from Moundsville joined those from Weirton, Parkersburg and Vienna in Wheeling to present their applications for participation in the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program.

Officials hope to gain the authority Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport received in 2008, as 22 cities across West Virginia are seeking 16 available slots in the second round of home rule.

In addition to Parkersburg, Vienna, Moundsville and Weirton, Mountain State cities seeking home rule include Morgantown, Fairmont, Bath, Bluefield, Buckhannon, Charles Town, Dunbar, South Charleston, Clarksburg, Lewisburg, Martinsburg, Milton, Nitro, Oak Hill, Princeton, Ranson, Shinnston and Spencer. Officials in St. Albans recently saw their application rejected for not holding enough public hearings on the matter.

Following the board’s Sept. 8 meeting, members will consider all applications to determine which 16 cities can participate. Even if a city is accepted to the program, council members from that particular city must then pass individual ordinances to enact the provisions of its specific home rule plan.

Moundsville city officials also would like to do the following if accepted to the home rule program:

– 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;

– reduce the number of business licenses from 45 to only a few.

“I am constantly having to say, ‘Sorry folks, you can’t do that,'” Moundsville City Attorney Thomas White told board members. “Cities are pretty hamstrung to be creative.”

City Finance Director Kathryn Goddard said the Moundsville business and occupation tax structure is “somewhat outdated.”

“We would be more business-friendly, and shift the burden to the consumers,” she said of imposing the sales tax while cutting the B&O.

In reviewing tax collection estimates Moundsville leaders presented, Sayre urged them to use caution.

“If you all are accepted in, I would caution you to go back in and check your numbers,” he said.

Weirton officials said individuals going to city clubs at 2 a.m. daily after bars close in Ohio and Pennsylvania create problems that the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration cannot address in a timely manner.

Weirton’s home rule application states the city would like to:

– allow city police officers to enter ABCA establishments without investigators from that agency present;

– establish new provisions for hiring code enforcement officials;

– allow code enforcement officials to issue on-site citations for common nuisance eyesore violations;

– establish certain restrictions on state roads that are within city limits without permission from the West Virginia Division of Highways.

“We are looking at violent crime and gang activity. It is a tool that I believe will make our city a much safer place,” Weirton Police Chief Bruce Marshall told home rule board members Patsy Trecost, Floyd Sayre, Brian Jones, Chris Fletcher and Joshua Jarrell.

Marshall said he respects the ABCA agents, adding his department works well with them. However, he said it is very difficult to get an agent to the city in the middle of the night when Weirton has problems.

“We have 63 bars and clubs in town. And we border two states that close bars sharply at 2 a.m.,” he said. “Most of the establishments are not a problem, but a few are.”

Jarrell said he was concerned the city and state agencies would be issuing similar citations, but Marshall said his department is strictly trying to stop violent confrontations and drug deals.

As for the other provisions of the application, Mayor George Kondik said the city faces the same problems over and over again.

“This is very important to our state and our communities,” he said of home rule.

City Manager Valerie Means said there are numerous state roads in Weirton that DOH officials cannot monitor as closely as city leaders.