Morgantown council approves tax hike

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In a 5 to 1 vote Tuesday, Morgantown City Council voted to increase the fire service fee and business and occupation tax rates.

After finalizing a 2016 budget that was $3.5 million dollars short of the current city budget, council requested Jeff Mikorski, Morgantown City Manager, to
find a way to increase revenue by about $1.4 million dollars.

His recommendation to increase the funds supporting city departments while reducing reliance on one-time funds from the general fund included
maximizing the B&O tax on service based businesses to 1% or $1.00 per $100.

Mikorski also recommended raising the city fire fee by 20%.

Those measures passed in a 4-2 vote in early April on a first reading.
Council members Wes Nugent and Ron Bane were opposed.

Tuesday, Nugent again voted against the final readings of both increases saying he wasn’t comfortable with the general explanation of how those fees would be spent.
Bane was not in attendance at the April 21 meeting.

According to Mikorski, council had been putting additional resources into city policing and capital assets while other departments were shorted.

“We found that there were a lot of other departments were really falling behind running into a situation where we were not able to provide the necessary services for a number of departments,” explained Mikorski.

He says the increases approved Tuesday will help assure the city continues to provide necessary services to residents.

The measure though, he said, should be considered short term. Council will likely have to consider new fees, taxes or levies to make up for the current budget shortfall.

“Long term goals of improving services beyond just making sure that our budget is whole, actually improving services and increasing the service level, would be another step,” advised Mikorski.

Meanwhile, council is expected to continue research into how other local governments are making ends meet through a sales tax and user fees.

“When council started looking at all the other city’s that have not only one of those but multiple revenue sources and then also the levies that both the city and the counties have, they started looking at what we need to do to not only stabilize but improve services,” said Mikorski.