A group of business owners and concerned citizens attended Alderson’s town council meeting on Thursday, July 9, and raised questions about the rates relating to the business and occupation tax ordinance, which had been a point of discussion during the June council meeting. The town’s attorney, Jesse Guills, was also in attendance to assist council. Although it was already on the books, the ordinance has never been fully enforced by the town. In the June meeting, council approved the enforcement of the ordinance.
Council person Tod Hanger suggested modifying the 4 percent rate, as originally written in the ordinance. Council decided the 4 percent rate would apply only to those businesses already paying that rate, mainly public service companies. Most remaining businesses would be charged a 1 percent rate. Companies selling tangible property, real or personal, (primarily retail businesses and restaurants), would pay a rate of 0.50 percent of the gross that exceeds $15 million. Landlords would be required to pay 1 percent on gross receipts collected. However, they would not be charged for those periods when their properties are not occupied. Contractors would be charged 1 percent per job within the municipality at the time the permit is issued. Contract service providers, accountants, and lawyers who have a brick and mortar business within the municipality would be excluded from the tax.
Amendments to the ordinance were accepted by council and a draft copy of the ordinance was handed out to those attending the meeting.
Jeff Ambler brought in three letters from businesses (Wilson’s Wrecker Services, East Coast Body Shop, and his own rental business) stating that they may discontinue their operations in the town if the ordinance is passed. Ambler also expressed concerns about the confidentiality of tax records. He was informed that a confidentiality clause is included in the ordinance.
Accountant Travis Barkley expressed his concerns about the audit procedures, confidentiality of business records, and suggested the rearrangement of some of the wording of the ordinance.
Tim Luce stated that some of his concerns had already been addressed and clarified before it came his turn to speak, but he was not able to find the section of the ordinance that addressed businesses with less than $15 million in gross income. Mayor Travis Copenhaver explained that the $15 million did not apply to Luce’s contracting business, nor did it apply to anyone selling their home. Luce then said his concern was that the $15 million may be lowered in the future and that it was based on gross rather than net income. He argued that it may negatively affect the desire of City National Bank to continue to do business in Alderson. Copenhaver explained that the bank already pays B&O taxes in other municipalities across the state.
During the discussions, it was made clear that the tax will be due on a quarterly basis. Attending citizens also remarked that the town was not given enough notice about the ordinance. The council affirmed that it meets on the second Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m., and the public is always welcome. Council voted to adopt the amendment to the ordinance and to move on with the third reading at the next council meeting. No further amendments to the ordinance will be allowed. If the ordinance is passed on the third reading, it will become effective on Aug. 1. A copy of the ordinance can be obtained at town hall.
In other business:
Frankie Jones was sworn in as Alderson Fire Department Chief for another two-year term. He ran unopposed. Also, Travis Copenhaver was appointed to another two-year term as chief municipal judge and Corianna Spinks as assistant municipal judge.
Council approved invoices submitted relating to the waste water treatment project. Council accepted the resolution to accept the USDA grant to repair the roof at the town hall. Budget revisions to transfer monies from last year’s budget to this year’s budget were approved.
Police Chief Jeremy Bennett said he continues to wrestle with the problem of hiring police officers for Alderson, leaving the town without adequate police coverage at this time. He recently put six candidates through the physical agility tests and three passed. The remaining candidates still have to pass a background check and a polygraph test. He said he hopes to send two of them to the policy academy in December to be trained and certified. This would give the town three full-time police officers starting in March or April. The cost will come to around $12,000 for each of the two candidates. They are required to sign a two-year contact stating that if they quit working for Alderson during that time, they will have to pay back the costs.
Bennett also addressed the concern of some citizens that the new police truck cost the town a lot of money. He pointed out that none of the last three vehicles obtained by the police department had cost the town anything. The town had grants for two of the vehicles and the third one was donated, Bennett said.
Copenhaver announced that no arrests were made during the annual 4th of July celebration, even though it was the biggest ever held in Alderson.