WEIRTON - The Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce released a statement Thursday expressing the opposition of its members to the proposed City of Weirton budget plan.
On Wednesday, Weirton City Council came to a consensus on a budget plan to close an expected $1.6 million shortfall in the 2014-2015 fiscal year. It included a Business and Occupation tax on all allowable categories, while reducing the city's existing police and fire service fee.
Brenda Mull, chamber president stated, "Our members are absolutely opposed to this plan. Although there was a citizen committee involved, none of the proposals put forth by the business representatives was included. We have been clear from the start of discussions that local businesses would be more than willing to participate in closing the budget gap for the city, but it could not be through a Business and Occupation Tax."
The proposed scenario, which will receive a first reading from council on Monday, was supported Wednesday by Ward 5 Councilman George Gaughenbaugh, Ward 4 Councilman George Ash, Ward 2 Councilman Chuck Wright and Ward 6 Councilman David Dalrymple, who had proposed it.
Mull added, "It is honestly pretty disheartening that a majority of city council supports placing the entire burden of the city budget on the backs of small businesses and their employees. It is further disheartening that the city administration and council are endorsing adding a tax (B&O) that has been a job killer in other communities. Other West Virginia cities with a B&O, especially in border areas, are trying to eliminate it, so why the city administration would support it is pretty mystifying."
Mull predicted only increased difficulties for the city and business community as a result of the proposed budget plan.
"The chamber supported the proposal of Councilman Marsh to make an inflationary adjustment to municipal service fees and work towards the implementation of an excise sales tax which would spread the burden throughout the community," Mull said. "If the current proposal from Councilman Dalrymple and the city administration is ultimately approved, it will absolutely result in decreases in jobs at small businesses, reduction in charitable contributions and decline in economic development."