UPDATE: Attorney General: B&O Must Go

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Updated: 7/06/2015 5:50 P.M.

Parkersburg's business and occupation tax has to be removed immediately.

That's the opinion of the state attorney general's office.

Mayor Jimmy Colombo admits it would have been easier for the city if the phase out it had planned would have taken place.

But over the weekend, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued an opinion saying that's not allowed under state law.

The city's one per cent sales tax went into effect on Wednesday.

Mayor Colombo, after discussing the situation with City Attorney Joe Santer and other city administrators, believes the city will be able to handle the change for the next few months.

"I do believe we'll have to go back, in two readings before city council, and change this ordinance," the mayor says. "We probably won't see any of this money, until October anyway."

The mayor says Parkersburg is in a transition period, .during which all departments will have to keep a close eye on spending.

A spending freeze announced earlier this year was lifted last week.

Updated: 7/01/2015 6:50 P.M

Another penny on the dollar.

Beginning July 1, that's what you will pay to buy most items in Parkersburg and Vienna.

That 1%-the result of a proposal approved last year by the Home Rule board-will be in addition to a 6% sales tax for everyone who shops at West Virginia businesses.

That's tied to a gradual-or, in the case of the city of Parkersburg, eventual-reduction in the two cities' business and occupation taxes.
But both cities say it will be some time before those B&O taxes are eliminated altogether.

"We're phasing in, or delaying the reduction of B&O until January 1 of 2016, so we won't have a budget shortfall," says Parkersburg City Attorney Joe Santer. "At that point, the utility B&O tax will be completely eliminated, and retail, including restaurants, will be reduced substantially."

"Everyday operating costs continue to rise," says Steve Black, Vienna Finance Director. "We're at a point where there's not a whole lot of opportunities to increase and generate additional revenue, other than this source. So at this time, we're not looking to phase (B&O) out, but it eventually could be a possibility."

Vienna sent out mailings notifying residents of the tax changes.

Parkersburg has asked the state whether it can delay it's B&O tax cuts until January, 2016.

It has not yet received an opinion from the attorney general's office.

Black says sales of three items are-not-subject to the sales tax.
Those are the sales of vehicles, prescriptions and food.

Updated: 12/19/2014 5:45 P.M.

Home rule is now in effect in Vienna. City Council approved it Thursday night.

While the home plan went into effect immediately, Mayor Randy Rapp says the city intends to educate the public on provisions including regulations on tow trucks and dealing with hazardous spills.

The city will start to sell off some equipment it doesn't need.

"One of the other provisions in play was the ability to get rid of excess equipment, but through the sealed bid process rather than a live auction, Mayor Rapp says. "We do have a Dodge Durango we were going to put up by sealed bid so we can get it out of our inventory."

As is the case with Parkersburg's home rule plan, Vienna's one per cent sales tax won't go into effect right away.

It's due to begin July first.

Updated: 12/1/2014 5:30 P.M.

Representatives from eight of the Home Rule cities in West Virginia received permission to impose a sales tax at a special meeting Monday morning in Fairmont.

Parkersburg Mayor, Bob Newell, and Vienna Mayor, Randy Rapp, wereamong those at the meeting.

Each city had to present their plan and prove that they followed the required steps including a public hearing at city council and a 30 day period for public comment.

Parkersburg and Vienna both received unanimous approval to enact a 1% sales tax.

Mayor Newell says it's a good thing for the city and it allows them to reduce the Business and Occupation tax.

"We have eliminated the B&O tax on utilities, on gas and electric. Therefore every resident inside the city, every business inside the city will have a 2-3% reduction in their utility bills which really outweighs the 1% tax on sales," says Newell.

The sales tax will go into effect on July 1st. Newell says it will probably be a few quarters before the city starts collecting any of that from the state.

City council also has to vote to approve the sales tax at the next two council meetings.

Updated: 11/14/2014 4:40 P.M.

The Home Rule board's approval of Parkersburg to take part in the program was not the last step in that process.

The next step: a public hearing on the plan at this Tuesday's city council meeting.

No action will be taken on the plan at that time.

But it goes back to the home rule board for further action after its December meeting.

"Once they do, it comes back to council for two more readings," says Mayor Bob Newell. "That's when they do, in fact, have to pass it. There will be two (more) public hearings with plenty of notice. You're looking at July of next year before it goes into effect."

The ordinances council will have to approve at a later date include a reduction in B and O taxes, and establishing a one per cent sales tax.

Council's meeting begins Tuesday night at 7:30.

UPDATE 10/6/2014 12:05 PM

From 22 cities, 16 are chosen.

Parkersburg and Vienna make the cut.

The West Virginia Home Rule Board Monday morning announced the latest cities who will be in the home rule program.

The mayors of Parkersburg and Vienna also were there, as were officials of both cities.

In particular, Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell has been working for at least four years to get a "home rule" designation.

Both cities were confident they would be chosen, based on what they had already heard about the presentations they made to the board in August.

They believe it's not good just for their cities, but for all of Wood County.

"I think one of the big factors is that Parkersburg and Vienna do a lot of things together, and that Williamstown is a good strong member also. So all of Wood County should work together to make our towns much better," says Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp.

The next step for Parkersburg is getting approval from city council, although the home rule board also has to approve its proposals.

But it and the City of Vienna are confident about those next steps.

The City of Spencer was the only one close to our area not chosen for the program's latest phase.

UPDATE 10/6/2014 9:15 AM

Parkersburg and Vienna were both accepted into the home rule program.

Todd Baucher has a live report at noon, plus Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell joins us live at 5:00 with more on this.

UPDATE 9/10/2014 5:00 PM

It won't be a "done deal" for Parkersburg's home rule plans.

That's even if the city's application is approved next month.

The biggest parts of the city's application are a one percent sales tax and a merger of its planning and zoning boards.

But before those are put into effect, Parkersburg City Council has to take action.

"One part of it is the sales tax; that would be two readings and a public hearing. If the committee approves our plan to combine the board of zoning appeals with the municipal planning commission, that is something that would take city council action as well," says Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell.

The home rule board announces next month the 16 cities who will be in the pilot program.

Parkersburg and Vienna are among the 23 cities who have applied.

UPDATE 9/9/2014 2:15 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Twenty-two West Virginia cities will find out next month whether they will participate in the state's home rule program, including Parkersburg and Vienna.

The cities are vying for 16 new slots in the program.

Municipal Home Rule Board chairman Patsy Trecost says the board will reveal the new home rule cities on Oct. 6 at a public meeting in Bridgeport.

The program givens municipalities a larger say in how they govern by shifting power from the state to the local level. It began as a five-year pilot in Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling. The Legislature expanded the program to 20 cities last year.

The board held five regional hearings to allow cities to present their applications. The Department of Commerce will determine the winners.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

UPDATE 8/12/2014 4:45 PM

Parkersburg and Vienna make their pitches.

Now, both cities wait to see if they're approved as "home rule" cities.

The board deciding which of 22 cities will be chosen for home rule designation has held two of four planned regional meetings.

Its chairman says what the board is looking for, is what sort of "outside the box" ideas applicants have, setting them apart from the competition.

"A lot of cities are talking about how they can feed off of each other, and we like that as a board. Because we know the stronger your cities are, the stronger your state is," says Patsy Trecost, Chairman of the West Virginia Home Rule Board. "An example I always give everyone, is, if one city would get a hotel, and yet, everyone who stays there eats in another city, you're creating jobs in two different fields, and that's what we're looking for."

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell, who made his city's presentation Monday, was among those who called for the legislature to allow home rule.

Parkersburg's and Vienna's proposals both call for a partial replacement of B and O taxes with a sales tax.

But they also include allowing those cities to decide on other matters.

UPDATE 8/11/2014 5:00 PM

Twenty-two cities in competition for 17 home rule designations.

And Monday morning, four of them - including the cities of Parkersburg and Vienna - made their presentations in Wheeling to the board charged with making the final choices.

While the proposals of the two cities have their similarities, they also have their differences.

While Parkersburg and Vienna would like to levy a one cent on the dollar sales tax, the City of Parkersburg would like more leeway on dealing with dilapidated properties.

The City of Vienna would also like something similar, but it also has to deal with spills of such substances as chemicals and gasoline.

These proposals, along with those of other cities, are going to be heard by the home rule board through the early part of September.

A decision on those proposals is expected to be made in late September or early October.

"Our last meeting is in September. After that, we're going to meet as a board and choose the cities we'll allow to come into the program, so some cities are going to be disappointed. After we do that, we're going to have another meeting, because some cities may get into the program, but some things in their criteria may not get through the home rule board," says Patsy Trecost, chairman, home rule board.

The home rule committee is generally pleased with the proposals the cities made, but there is some concern about Parkersburg merging its planning and zoning boards into a single committee.

And the City of Vienna will be making an amendment to its proposal, allowing it to sell off some of its property it no longer needs at auction.

That will take place before the home rule committee makes its final decision.

The cities of Moundsville and Weirton also made presentations to the home rule board Monday morning.

UPDATE 8/8/2014 5:25 PM

Two local mayors travel to Wheeling Monday, trying to bring home rule to Parkersburg and Vienna.

Mayors Bob Newell and Randy Rapp will each have 30 minutes to present their case to join the state's home rule pilot program.

The mayors say the program would allow their cities to become more self-governing.

That means the mayor's offices and commissioners would have more authority to apply state laws more appropriately to our region.

Parkersburg and Vienna are 2 of 23 West Virginia cities applying for home rule.

Sixteen will make the cut.

"It is a little bit of a competition. I think that we're a little more confident. We're in an area of growth here. And it's very important that some of these things get changed," says Mayor Newell.

Mayor Newell says the oil and gas boom and the proposed cracker plant will help showcase that growth.

UPDATE 6/17/2014 5:10 PM

Two local mayors work together this summer, trying to bring home rule to Parkersburg and Vienna.

Mayors Bob Newell and Randy Rapp will be in Wheeling this August, presenting their case to join the state's home rule pilot program.

The program would allow Parkersburg and Vienna to become more self-governing, giving the mayor's office and commissioners authority to apply state laws more appropriately to our region.

Mayors Newell and Rapp say home rule would cut taxes here at home.

"What we need is different from what Charleston needs and Huntington needs and Wheeling needs," says Mayor Newell. "That's the whole point of home rule. It allows cities to structure fees and taxes based on what their needs are."

"it offers so many opportunities for smaller communities like us to make the rules for what's in our area," says Mayor Rapp.

Twenty-one other West Virginia cities are applying for home rule

Sixteen will be selected for the pilot program.

The Wheeling regional meeting is August 11th.

UPDATE 5/23/2014 5:00 PM

Sick of cracked sidewalks?

The City of Vienna may be able to start fixing them.

City council voted in favor of home rule Thursday.

That means the city gets to act a little more like a state, but residents might see a one cent sales tax hike.

Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp says the extra penny will go a long way.

"It's a great thing. it allows us to streamline the city processes that we use. With the money that's generated from that original fee, we'll have extra funds where we can do a lot of road improvements, we can do a lot of the infrastructure things that we just don't have the funds for a city our size," he says.

Four West Virginia cities already have home rule.

Now it's up to the state to approve Vienna too.

One June 1 the state considers adding 16 more cities, including Vienna and Parkersburg.

Vienna City Council members Thursday night were given a list of priorities as the city makes its own application to West Virginia for home rule status.

Mayor Randy Rapp said the city intends to seek a one percent sales tax, while reducing or eliminating its business and occupation taxes.

That's similar to a proposal being considered by Parkersburg City Council.

The mayor, however, could not say how much revenue a one percent sales tax could raise.

Other proposals include care of properties not up to Vienna city code, and disposal of city property by sealed bid sales instead of at public auction.

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