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South Charleston mayor says some businesses mistakenly taxing customers

By Marta Ree Tankersley

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some South Charleston businesses are incorrectly applying a 0.5 percent sales tax to purchases, Mayor Frank Mullens said during a City Council meeting Thursday.

Mullens believes the problem originated with the U.S. Postal Service.

What began as an identity issue -- with incoming mail listing South Charleston residents as living in Charleston -- has "been taken to a different level" since Charleston's new sales tax increase went into effect, Mullens said.

Charleston's tax increase went into effect Oct. 1.

"The mom and pop, local businesses aren't charging the tax that I know of," he said. "It's the national corporation headquarters that see Charleston listed on the business address that are charging the Charleston tax."

Residents are passionate about this tax going to Charleston, said City Treasurer Hanna Pettitt.

"They tell me that the city of Charleston doesn't clean their streets or patrol their neighborhoods, and they don't want them to get the tax," she said.

It was reported that Lowe's and Dollar Tree in South Charleston had corrected the problem, but, according to Mullens, Target is still charging the tax.

"We are diligently fighting this problem," Mullens said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are "working on the issue" and are scheduled to discuss it again on Monday, Mullens said.

He also reported that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and acting state Tax Commissioner Mark W. Matkovich are also involved.

"People who have been incorrectly charged a sales tax are due a refund," Mullens said. "It's just pennies on a single purchase, but it adds up."

Currently there is no plan in place to get refunds to consumers.

In a related issue, all customers of West Virginia American Water Company are routinely charged a tax. Mullens is investigating where that fee goes when South Charleston residents are erroneously listed as living in Charleston.

A representative of the water company is meeting with city officials tomorrow.

"We are going to track down the tax," Mullens said.

"To me this is a serious problem," he said. "Get it right! We don't live in Charleston, we live in South Charleston. I'm not going to let this die."

In other business:

* The first reading of an ordinance permitting a deed of exchange with Speedway passed unanimously.

This is the first step in the process to tear down the current Speedway and rebuild on the same site, according to City Attorney Michael Moore.

"Speedway officials are eager to tear down and start the process of new construction," Moore said.

* Council members agreed to purchase two new portable basketball goals for the South Charleston Recreation Center at a cost of $26,680.

They also approved an expected expense of just more than $71,000 for new sod and landscaping for the front nine holes of Little Creek Golf Course.

* Moore reported that more tracts and more hunters have been approved to participate in urban deer hunting and commended Police Chief Brad Rinehart for his work overseeing applications and training.

"Hunters are excited about this and we believe we are accomplishing what we set out to do to control the deer population," Moore said.

* Public Works Director Gerald Burgy reported that the 2013 Canned Food Drive for the Heart and Hand food pantry began Thursday.

"Residents may hang their bags of can goods and non-perishable food items on their doors or front porches for pick-up on the regularly scheduled garbage pick-up days," he said.

Collection sites have also been set up at several city locations.

* Moore reported that the framework for the Municipal Home Rule application, which is due in June, has been drafted and the city should have a "solid plan and good application."

Home rule is a type of city charter that is met to facilitate local control and minimize state intervention in some municipal affairs.


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