City halts $10 million project, awaiting Legislature to decide on business & occupational tax bill

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 11:38 PM EST
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HURRICANE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Wednesday marked the first day of the 2022 legislative session in West Virginia, and already some bills brought to the table are bringing concerns with them.

“Since we don’t know if (business and occupational tax) will change, that’s why we’re pausing right now,” Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards told WSAZ. “We just want to make sure the city is solid all the time. We’re not the type of government that wants to sign on the dotted line and then not make our bond payments.”

On Wednesday, lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 132, which is aimed to eliminate municipalities’ business and occupational, or B&O tax, within a five-year period. As it stands, some cities have both a home rule, which is a 1% increase in sales tax that goes towards the cities, and B&O tax. However, lawmakers say they would rather cities have one or the other -- not both.

The city of Hurricane decided to pause their $10 million Hurricane Bridge Park project as they await what the Legislature will decide to do. The park would include four baseball fields, an amphitheater, walking trails and disc golf.

“It’s designed to try to create some relief on those businesses because, most of our businesses are small businesses and they’re hurting right now,” state Sen. Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh County, said. “So can we somehow figure out how the home rule, that was made available to everybody last year -- can we make that something that there is a trade-off? That’s what (was) supposed to happen originally, but it kind of fell apart and it’s not nailed down in code.”

Roughly 40% of the Hurricane city budget comes from the city’s B&O taxes. Mayor Edwards also added that the 1% sales tax, or home rule, that their city also has, is already committed to paying off their new fire department.

“So you think, 40 to 50 percent of the police department would be gone, 40 to 50 percent of the firefighters, gone, 40 to 50 percent of the people on the street department gone,” Edwards said.

Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin told WSAZ that roughly $42 million of their $100 million budget is made up of B&O taxes. She also said their 1% sales tax is dedicated to paying off pensions and other bond debts.

“Right now, (municipalities are) getting lots of money, that’s extra, coming in with all of this infrastructure,” said Senator Roberts. “Maybe this is the key time to be able to make this crossover and see if we can do something that would balance it all out and be better in the long run.”

“We’ll still work towards Hurricane Bridge Park; we’ll do it slowly. It may take us ten or twelve years to get it done, instead of one year, but we’ll do it as we can,” Mayor Edwards told WSAZ. “But we’re just kind of in a waiting game right now. We’re just waiting to see what the Legislature does. I hope they do the right thing and don’t cut the funding sources for the cities.”

The bill will now go through the committees process.

If it passes, cities would have five years to decide whether to keep their 1% sales tax or keep their B&O tax.

If you’d like to read the bill in full, tap here.

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