Final vote on new sales tax will be tonight

ELKINS — Elkins City Council plans to vote on the controversial proposed 1 percent sales tax ordinance tonight on its third and final reading.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the second-floor Council Chambers at City Hall.

The ordinance has drawn protest from downtown business owners, with local leaders speaking in opposition to the new tax before each of the first two readings.

On tonight’s agenda, Mark Doak, who owns several buildings downtown, and was the first to speak during the last meeting’s public comment section, is scheduled to make a presentation on behalf of “Downtown Business Owners.” The presentation is set to occur after the public comment section of the meeting, but before the third vote on the ordinance is taken.

Elkins officials are looking to create a 1 percent sales tax on businesses within the city limits, which is possible now that the state has approved the city’s application to amend the original Home Rule plan for Elkins.

In order to implement a new sales tax, Elkins must give the state six months’ lead time.

Much of the controversy surrounding the ordinance regards the city’s decision to not designate how the revenue from the new tax will be spent.

This week, a state tax official confirmed Elkins officials’ contention that they are not required by law to say how the funds will be used.

A spokesperson for the West Virginia State Tax Department told The Inter-Mountain that state law does not require cities to designate how they will use the tax revenue, but noted “we do tell them it’s helpful to do so.”

Earlier this week, during an Elkins City Council Finance Committee meeting, Councilman Robert “Bob” Woolwine said some of the areas he believes would benefit from the revenue include increased wages and benefits for city employees as well as the city needing to be prepared for the rising cost of insurance; increasing public safety through additional police officers and maintenance of fire department equipment; parks and recreation, including more activities for area youth and installing a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the Phil Gainer Community Center; and upgrading city infrastructure through maintaining downtown roads and bridges.