New Martinsville City Council listened to local business owners Thursday and voted unanimously to send the new rates for the city's business and occupation tax, adopted a their Sept. 10 meeting, back to committee. That action will delay implementation.
The action was taken after an approximately two-hour meeting where nearly 50 businesspeople attended and most spoke on the issue. Their primary concerns were the amount of the increase, the fact that despite required legal advertisement most people in the city did not know about the proposed increase until it happened, the burden the increase puts on small businesses, how businesses will make up for the increase by likely cutting unnecessary expenses like donations to community groups and events; and how the increased cost of doing would likely close or move current businesses or discourage future business to locate in New Martinsville.
The recent action would increase rates by 250 percent in several categories including manufacturing, retailers, wholesalers, contracting, amusement, services, rentals, and banking. Businesses such as gravel, sand, hotel occupancy, and utilities did not increase. Recorder Bonnie Shannon said those that did not change were already set at the highest level allowed by law. The increased rates range from 15 cents to $2 per $100 gross sales, up from six to 80 cents per $100.
Mayor Keith Nelsen said the city will send out the previous quarterly tax forms until the issue is resolved.
Don Riggenbach, president of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce, suggested maybe the council appoint some business people to give input on the committee. Nelsen responded, "It's always open to the public. We don't want to keep anything from anybody."
Committee meetings are required to be posted on the front door of the city building. As of Tuesday afternoon, a meeting of the committee to examine the B&O matter has not be sent.
Particularly in response to the community's apparent lack of knowledge of the rate hike proposal, Shannon said she is willing to set up a community notification email of future city meetings and matters. Anyone who wants to be on the list can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.