Buckhannon taking steps toward new tax

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council unanimously voted Thursday night to authorize the city attorney to proceed with preparing an amendment to the city’s Home Rule Plan that could lead to the creation of a 1 percent sales tax.

Mayor David McCauley explained the authorization has direct bearing upon the “probable adoption” of a 1 percent sales tax mechanism and ordinance. The city is considering an increased sales tax on Buckhannon citizens in hopes of enhancing its stagnant general fund budget.

“(Tonight) would just be an authorization to get the wheels rolling on preparing the amendment on the Home Rule Plan to permit the consideration of a later ordinance to implement the municipal sales tax,” city attorney Tom O’Neill further explained.

The city of Buckhannon held a town hall meeting Tuesday evening to gather public input on the potential sales tax ordinance. During that meeting, the mayor had noted that, should the city implement the sales tax, the implementation would take roughly 15-20 months.

“In the last 48 hours, you’ve gotten some additional clarification and research that we now believe that if we have a draft ordinance to the state tax department while we are pursuing things through the Home Rule Board that we may be able to implement this new sales tax as early as July 1, 2019,” McCauley said to O’Neill.

O’Neill advised he thought the city had to go through the Home Rule process, followed by the ordinance process, and then submit to the tax department.

“But I believe now, after further research, that we can run on a couple of these tracks simultaneously,” he said. “It is why we are pursuing the Home Rule angle that we can also submit the draft ordinance as well as the supplementary materials that the tax commissioner requires as part of this prior to the Home Rule Board actually ruling on our plan,” he said.

O’Neill said if the Home Rule Board were to reject the city’s amendment then it moots the whole process and “it’s all over.”

O’Neill provided council with a proposed time line for the potential adoption of the sales tax through the Home Rule Board.

On Oct. 18, O’Neill suggests that council have the first reading on the proposed ordinance to amend the Home Rule Plan, followed by a public hearing on the proposed amendment and the second reading of the ordinance tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1.

Should the proposed amendment to the Home Rule Plan pass, O’Neill’s time line has Dec. 3 as the time for submitting the proposed amendment on the Home Rule Plan to the Municipal Home Rule Board.

On Jan. 17, O’Neill proposes that council be introduced to the first reading of the 1 percent sales tax ordinance, followed by a public hearing tentatively scheduled for Feb. 7.

Should the city receive approval from the Home Rule Board and the sales tax ordinance be adopted, O’Neill’s proposed time line has the city collecting municipal sales tax beginning on July 1, 2019, depending on the tax commissioner.

City council member Dave Thomas made a motion to authorize O’Neill to proceed with preparing the amendment to the city’s Home Rule plan and give notice of a public hearing. Council member Robbie Skinner seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

In other news, council:

• Approved resolution 2018-22, which supports Home Rule as a permanent program.

• Approved the prevention resource officer agreement renewal between the city of Buckhannon, the Buckhannon Police Department and the Upshur County Board of Education.

• Set Trick or Treat to be from 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 31.

• Accepted the resignation of Sarah Campbell as coordinator for the Buckhannon Volunteer Center. Council approved hiring Casie Gilbert has the volunteer center’s new coordinator.