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Moundsville Concerned Over Home Rule Bill

Photo by Alan Olson City Manager Rick Healy brandishes a copy of a state senate bill which would force Moundsville to eliminate their 1% sales tax.

MOUNDSVILLE — The introduction of Senate Bill 132, which would require that cities under the Home Rule program eliminate other taxes to compensate for a raised sales tax, has Moundsville’s city leaders concerned for the future of the city’s finances.

SB 132 would require cities which implement a 1% sales tax to reduce and eliminate their business and occupation tax over a five-year period. As of Jan. 12, the bill has been referred to the Government Organization and Finance committees.

At Tuesday evening’s Moundsville council meeting, city manager Rick Healy said that eliminating the B&O tax would cost the city more money than the sales tax brings in, and asked those present to make their voices heard in opposing the measure.

“Currently, we budget $2.4 million in business and occupation tax, we’re on target to reach that amount this year,” Healy said. “We budget $2 million for the 1%. This would be a very, very difficult task for not only Moundsville, but other communities.”

Healy said that he hopes State Sen. Mike Maroney, who serves on the Government Organization Committee, will be a moderating voice on the matter. Healy also said the West Virginia Municipal League is not currently sweating the issue.

“The Municipal League, they’re not panicking over this bill yet, but this is expected to be the first of many they’re going to introduce, including exemptions from B&O,” Healy said. “… The more exemptions there are, obviously, the more we’re going to lose in B&O tax revenue. We need to stay on top of this … and make sure that (the Legislature) understands what a devastating effect this would have.”

Healy said that while the absence of a B&O tax could be seen as an attractive option for new businesses, he doubts that the effect would be enough to counteract the relatively short-term loss of revenue in any meaningful sense.

“Without B&O tax, we will be able to attract new businesses. I can’t even imagine the time frame it would take for us to recoup $2.4 million a year in new businesses,” he said. “I’ll probably have been long gone from here by the time we recoup that.”

In other matters, Healy and members of council praised the city’s street department, who worked in 12-hour shifts from Sunday to Tuesday to clear snow away and treat roads covered by winter storm Izzy.

“They opted to have two crews, starting at noon Sunday, who started pre-treating the hills and other areas,” Healy said. “Those crews worked until midnight, and were relieved by two fresh crews. … That rotation continued until noon today. We had a lot of snow to clear, and I’ve had compliments from many people today about the good conditions of the roads.”

Council member Randy Chamberlain pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency prohibits the dumping of snow, which some residents had grown accustomed to in years past.

The meeting adjourned after 40 minutes. Council members Denny Wallace, Sara Wood-Shaw, and Gene Saunders were absent from the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, council member Randy Chamberlain called for prayers for Wallace who was recently hospitalized. Council also extended prayers for the recent passing of former city attorney John “J.K.” Chase.

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