CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones wants to eliminate business and occupation taxes for manufacturing companies in the city, reduce the B&O tax for retail businesses, and raise sales taxes to renovate the Charleston Civic Center.
At a Tuesday morning news conference, Jones said he wants to eliminate all B&O taxes on manufacturing in city limits, and reduce B&O taxes on retail businesses from 0.5 percent to 0.35 percent.
The mayor said he would ask City Council for a 0.5 percent increase in sales taxes in the city to enhance the Civic Center. Those enhancements would include a new ballroom, meeting space, kitchen renovations and more restrooms, among other things, he said.
The renovations would also include the outside of the Civic Center, which City Manager David Molgaard said looks like a "state prison" now.
The Civic Center renovations would cost $45 million to $60 million, Jones said.
The tax changes would have the potential to generate more than $3.5 million a year, according to the mayor. Automobiles and non-prepared food would be exempt from the tax increase.
The city's first tax-increment financing district, created last year to fund improvements at the Civic Center, would also contribute $600,000 a year.
Tax-increment financing allows government entities to fund economic development projects, using the projected increase in property taxes that occurs because of the improvements to the district.
Charleston's TIF district is an L-shape surrounding the Civic Center. Several properties within the district are undergoing multimillion-dollar improvements, including the Ramada Inn, which was formerly the Charleston House hotel. The Charleston Town Center Mall and the Chase Bank building are each planning renovations too. Developers plan to build a new Marriot Courtyard hotel within the district as well.
The city's "user fee," under which the city charges everyone who works in Charleston $2 a week, would remain unchanged, Jones said.
Molgaard said the tax increase wouldn't generate any excess funds besides what's needed for the project.
"We're not overreaching," he said. "We don't want to ask for so little money that we can't make the improvements."
The new tax plans must be approved by City Council and the state Home Rule board before they would take effect. Charleston is one of four cities in the home-rule pilot program, which allows the cities to take on expanded powers usually reserved for the state government.