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City tables talk of user fee

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 5:33 PM EDT
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UPDATE 7/6/21 @ 11:44 p.m.

DUNBAR, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The city of Dunbar didn’t discuss its proposed user fee Tuesday night as expected.

The issue was tabled at the council meeting.

City leaders are still in the process of discussing the fee which they’ve said could be anywhere from $1 to $6.50 per week for people who work inside Dunbar city limits.

It would be similar to the fee that is already in place in Charleston and in Huntington.

There is no word on when the proposal will be addressed.

The next council meeting is in two weeks.

ORIGINAL STORY 7/5/21

DUNBAR, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The city of Dunbar is looking to create a user fee to generate additional revenue to pay for community improvement projects.

The fee would be taken out of the paycheck of anyone who works within city limits, similar to user fees currently used in Charleston and Huntington. City leaders are still deciding how much the fee would be, but it would likely end up being between $1 and $6.50 per week, per employee, according to Mayor Scott Elliott.

The idea was first proposed by City Councilwoman Sharon Haynes, who has seen the benefits of other cities having a user fee. She hopes to use the funds generated by the additional fee to improve roads, boost business and even give raises to city employees.

“We’re just a small town, and we need to increase things that are coming in so that we can better ourselves,” Haynes said. “Give ourselves more opportunity to have things in Dunbar that other places do have.”

“We’re not going to get a million dollars richer every year,” Elliott said. “We know that. It’s just that we would be able to set a fee based on what we need to do every year.”

The city is currently just patching potholes and other road problems every year due to a limited budget, Elliott said. This user fee funding could allow the city to get roads professionally repaved.

“The citizens here would benefit from it, but the employees that are coming through town that are hitting the potholes, terribly tearing their tires up and tearing their cars up, would be able to use it to be able to use the roads better,” Elliott said.

The proposal is set to be introduced at Tuesday’s Dunbar City Council meeting. It would need enough council support to have a public hearing on the new user fee before an official council vote.

Many community members have expressed concerns that this fee would hurt the town’s most vulnerable working people and make some employees move to businesses in another town that does not have a user fee.

Dunbar resident John Thaxton said he would consider getting a job in Cross Lanes to avoid paying the Dunbar user fee, and might even move out of the city because of it. He said the roads are in need of repairs, but thinks the city should ask the state Department of Transportation to manage the paving instead.

“They’ve got enough fees as it is with sales tax and business tax,” Thaxton said. “It will probably lead to more vacant houses and people leaving. The police already have enough problems with vacant houses, and enough problems with drug use.”

“I think we pay enough taxes,” Max’s Place manager Oranart Namsupak said. “I don’t think it would be fair for them to charge us extra.”

Businesses, like Max’s Place, are concerned this fee would make it harder for them to find employees in an already difficult hiring market, Namsupak said. She said the business would either have to offer employees a higher wage or risk losing them to other areas without the fee.

“It adds up,” Namsupak said about the fee. “You would not think that would be a lot, but if you add it up, there are a lot of other things you need to pay. So, it would be a lot.”

“It’s just a way for the government to screw us out of our hard earned money,” Dunbar resident Matthew Martin said. “It’s like they’re ok with getting screwed out of an extra $1 to $3 out of their paycheck every week. You know, that’s like a gallon of milk!”

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