By Lyra Bordelon
The first reading of a business and occupation tax (B&O) expansion in Alderson was approved by Town Council during their Thursday, March 11 meeting. The council also discussed other potential ordinances on ATV’s and next year’s budget.
Mayor Travis Copenhaver explained that due to legislative rule changes last year serious budget revisions had to be considered before the 2022 budget could be balanced.
“It is a 1 percent [B&O tax] across the board for every business that is not a nonprofit, … like the other municipalities have,” said Copenhaver. “This is the way to offset what I’ve been harping about for the last several months.”
The proposed B&O tax would not affect either Greenbrier or Monroe counties’ hotel/motel tax, any utility tax, or previously established contractor’s fees. If passed, the ordinance would be effective July 1, 2021.
“When we [last] changed this, I said we had the most backward B&O tax there was because we were trying to hold off taxing the locals,” Copenhaver said. “This doesn’t change rents, the property owners still pay the one percent, the only thing that it’s doing is putting the one percent on all convenience stores, restaurants, cafes, all of the brick and mortar businesses. … “[The language of the ordinance] had it so they were only taxed if they made in excess of $15 million, which is gone. … That is the major revision of this ordinance. You have from now to next month to look at it and pick at it.”
Copenhaver pointed to a rule change from last year, removing a municipalities ability to suspend driver’s licenses and other punishments for failure to pay fines.
“The major issue right now is the budget deficit that we’re looking at is a result of one tiny little thing done last year. That one, tiny thing has cost us, the little ol’ town of Alderson, $37,000. Our police department is not a money making endeavor, that’s not the point. The point is 14 percent of our general fund before this law was enacted, then when the law became what it was, we didn’t have any means to collect that.”
Another future bill leaving the budget uncertain is Governor Jim Justice’s proposed personal income tax replacement bill.
“If we do away with the personal income tax, how is that going to affect us, the class four municipality?” Copenhaver asked. “It’s a major, major unforeseen issue. The ramifications of this bill alone is enough to make major deficits, and it has here, on the most local level.”
Citing disagreement with some representatives of the West Virginia Municipal League, Copenhaver spoke out against continued removal of municipal powers.
“This is terrible,” Copenhaver said. “Everybody wants to pay [less] in taxes, and everybody thinks it’s great, but look at the big picture. … I feel like we do a dagum job, even compared to other class four municipalities. I’m proud of what we do. 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.”
In other business:
– The Alderson Varsity Football Team came to Town Council after taking the championship for their division. Copenhaver said “You guys are due a debt of our gratitude. On behalf of the administration of the town, the administration of the council, thank you all very much. … We appreciate you representing us so well.”
– Alderson will soon receive $470,000 out of the federal March 2021 COVID-19 relief bill. Noting it comes with some guidelines, Copenhaver said “There’s no question we’re going to get it.” This is not expected to affect the ongoing B&O tax ordinance.
– Another $5,000 budget consideration could be considered next month, the licensing of All Terrain Vehicles in town. Copenhaver explained “we’re going to have to make a decision because it’s time to renew the [city licenses]. Do we keep our current ordinance and licenses [and requirements] for the side streets?”