By Lyra Bordelon
With the Alderson Town Council considering enacting a Business and Occupation Tax (B&O), many Alderson residents are curious about how a similar tax operates in other Greenbrier County municipalities. Although many do have a B&O tax, the majority were created exempting small, local businesses.
Town Council already approved the first reading of the ordinance, setting the stage for the tax to become a new business standard in town. Mayor Travis Copenhaver points to a budget hole as the reason for the new tax.
“I’m proud of what we do,” said Copenhaver. “But with the stuff that’s been taken away from us, and what’s proposed to be taken away from us, why even be an incorporated municipality? It would be easier for us to get out of the water and sewer business, get out of police business, and just be another spot with a sign that says ‘unincorporated.’ … Deregulation from the municipal side of things is not the way to do it.”
However, Copenhaver also pointed to “the other municipalities” as having a “1 percent” B and O tax “across the board for every business that is not a nonprofit.” In Greenbrier County, this is not the case – amid the other municipalities, Alderson would become just a few with an “across the board” tax if this were enacted.
Currently, Ronceverte has no B&O tax implemented.
Lewisburg’s B&O Tax was passed in March 2006, and since it has been updated once, adding contractors in May 2014.
“Yes, Lewisburg has a B&O Tax on retail sales and contracting,” explained Recorder Shannon Beatty. However, this is not commonly paid by Lewisburg businesses – “B&O taxes are not paid on retail until after the first 15 million in sales.”
White Sulphur Springs first considered, then later implemented, a B&O tax in 2019. City Attorney Fred Giggenbach wrote the tax with exceptions for anything under $2 million in sales, with varying rates for different business types, analyzing 13 similar taxes enacted throughout the state.
Before it’s passage, WSS Mayor Bruce Bowling explained the guidelines for who the tax applies to and the city’s intention to omit small businesses from paying the tax. Instead, the tax was designed before the pandemic and aimed to capture city revenue from large-scale manufacturing and the West Virginia Great Barrel Company.
“For small businesses, restaurants, the small shops in town, doctors, lawyers, service [people], people who are small businesses it won’t really affect at all,” Giggenbach explained. “Who it will affect are banks, contractors, manufacturing. … The reason this thing came about is because of Tom Crabtree and the barrel plant. He sort of demanded we put in a B&O tax. He just wants to contribute to the town. … The barrel company is expected to gross $20 million a year. Of that $20 million, it would pay $60,000 in taxes. We would provide fire protection, police protection, water service.”
In Rainelle, a number of different rates per $100 are set for different types of businesses, such as:
– $1.20 for electric light and power companies
– $1.50 for contracting businesses
– 20 cents for gross income of retailers, restaurants, and “others”
– 6.8 cents for gross sales value of manufactured products
– 32.5 cents for Service and “all other business” not otherwise specified by the ordinance.
While this is not a comprehensive list for Rainelle, the diversity in rates is similar to how both utilities are handled in B&O taxes – in Lewisburg, water companies pay 4 percent, the same rate as light and power companies in White Sulphur Springs. These rates vary for each utility and specified business in each ordinance.
With the first reading of Alderson’s B&O tax already approved, another reading and public hearing are expected in an upcoming Town Council meeting.