Funds could cover downtown parking expansion, potential dog park, adding bathrooms to Caldwell boat launch, and other city projects
By Sarah Richardson
Lewisburg City Council motioned to recommend a sales tax adoption to the Home Rule Board at their last meeting. The proposed one percent tax will be for “mainly retail” transactions within the Lewisburg city limits. The funds will go directly to city maintenance, improvements, and daily operations, which council cited as vitally important as Lewisburg continues to grow.
“In the last several years our budget has just stayed flat, we don’t really have room for growth,” explained City Manager Misty Hill, “and we have to plan for growth.”
Mayor White asked how much revenue the tax would have generated if it had been implemented last year. Hill said an estimated $1,891,309.71 would have been generated in just the last fiscal year. Only a small handful of similarly-sized cities in the state do not implement a one percent sales tax.
“We cannot tax sales of motor vehicles, motor fuels, satellite television, and other transactions that are exempt by federal law, and whatever is not taxed by the state cannot be taxed by the municipality,” explained Susan Honaker, Treasurer.
“With raising one percent here, we would lower one percent of the Business and Ordinance tax,” Hill noted.
Hill said that thanks to CARES Act funding reimbursements the city has recently been able to expand the local parks, add amenities, and add sidewalks in several places around Lewisburg. However, Hill argued that this was not sustainable long term without a revenue stream for the city; “We keep adding to our growth, but we don’t add any employees or anything to our budget system that can help sustain those expansions,” she said.
She explains that the Lewisburg Public Works is currently housed on part of Dorie Miller Park, which was not the long-term intention for that park land. The department has been working to move from that site, and work is currently underway on Stonehouse Road adjacent to the water plant for a new public works building. “So one part of this [tax] is to relocate that department, and set public works down at the water plant in that new area we just purchased,” she said.
She explained that the parks department “is our most underfunded department. This year has been a wonderful year for parks, and a hard year for our public works department. A wonderful year for our parks thanks to CARES Act reimbursement. One thing we were looking at when expanding our CARES Act reimbursement was placing that in our parks because it’s our most underfunded in our whole general budget. This will be able to utilize getting new trash cans in our parks, and the football field needs a new scoreboard.”
The city also owns and maintains the Caldwell Boat Launch on the Greenbrier River at the bottom of Caldwell Hill, and Hill explained, “Being able to do some upgrades, a restroom down there, would be fantastic.”
The tax would also be able to fund the “phase II” Dorie Miller upgrades, including a potential dog park, short pump track, walking track. “Those are some of the things we are considering in that area,” she said.
“Next on the list would be additional downtown parking. There are some areas that we could look at for expansion. Mayor White and myself get at least one or two phone calls a week concerned with downtown parking. This would help us be able to utilize that, and also be able to use the wayfinding signs for parking that’s already existing.”
A wide range of items within the city were listed at the meeting that could be addressed through the potential tax:
- Parts of the city’s public fleet vehicles are aging, and need to be replaced.
- Sidewalks continue to require repairs and expansion, including those on Lafayette and Feamster.
- Records at City Hall need digitized and re-filed, and the building needs a new HVAC system and security door upgrades.
- Wayfinding signage in the downtown area to highlight public parking, restrooms, local businesses, and more.
- Thanks to a recent $250,000 grant, the city can make a comprehensive stormwater plan, but the development of that plan is expected to expose areas in need of repairs, which the tax can help fund reconstruction of.
- The Lewisburg Police Department needs an office expansion, “because as our city grows, our department will also grow to continue to protect and serve our citizens,” and a payscale revision would be considered to stay competitive with other municipal police departments.
- The new Fire Station No. 1, which is slated to replace downtown Lewisburg’s current aging station, will need more funds to complete. The city has purchased the property across from Lewisburg Cinema 8, and “we need the funds to support the financing of the new building,” said Hill. She noted that the Fire Station Service Fee only goes to support the fire department, and doesn’t cover the funds for a new station.
“We want to make sure we are taking care of the city,” said Mayor White. “And this is one way to do it.”
On May 20, 2014 the City of Lewisburg signed into Home Rule, so Hill explained since the city is a part of that program, as well as the Municipal League, that changing the one percent sales tax would have to be presented to them and the state for a first and second reading.
The one percent sales tax would not go into effect until July 1, 2022.
A motion to present this recommendation to the Home Rule Board was approved unanimously by council.