CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mayor Danny Jones urged City Council members Monday to approve his plan to help finance Civic Center improvements through a 0.5 percent city sales tax.
Also Monday, Jones told council members he plans to continue funding Multifest after a change in leadership there, and updated council on attempts by some state legislators to overturn the city's restrictive gun laws.
Jones, City Manager David Molgaard and Finance Director Joe Estep spent much of an extended meeting of council's Finance Committee to lobby for the new tax, which would be coupled with reductions in the city's business and occupation taxes.
Jones unveiled the proposal during a news conference two weeks ago, saying the plan could net an estimated $3.6 million a year to pay for improvements to the aging Civic Center. The plan has been available for public viewing since Wednesday, according to legal ads run in the Gazette, Molgaard said.
The city needs to move quickly on the tax plan because it can only impose a new tax under the experimental home rule program passed by the Legislature about five years ago. Charleston needs to get permission from the Municipal Home Rule Board to amend its home rule plan, Molgaard said, because the city's original home rule plan did not include a city sales tax.
It's unclear whether the Legislature will extend the original five-year home rule program.
"Our home rule is going to expire in June, so if we're going to make a change, we need to do it now," Jones said.
Councilman Ed Talkington said he could live with parts of Jones' plan -- the 0.5 percent sales tax, the elimination of the B&O tax on manufacturing -- but did not support a reduction in the B&O tax on retail sales. "I don't think any establishments will move into Charleston because of a reduced B&O tax."
Jones said the proposed cut was small -- from 0.5 percent to 0.35 percent. "This is a slight way to say, 'We'll help you.' This is a way to use home rule to change a few things."
The tax cuts might help placate legislators who would otherwise oppose any increase in taxes, he said. "I need to present a balanced proposal to the Legislature."