Morgantown councilors approve budget amendment, endorse voting rights act

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown City Council is moving forward with an adjusted budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

After short discussion during their regular meeting Tuesday, council unanimously approved an updated version of the 20-21 budget which included approximately $1.8 million in extra revenues. The majority of the extra funds, approximately $2.26 million, will come from an increase in the business and occupation tax stemming from construction work around the city.

“B&O taxes increased mainly due to WVU construction projects and this increased in the regular B&O taxes,” said Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws about how the increases took place.

While there is a significant increase from the business and occupation tax, there was a decrease in three other revenue sources which have lead to a decrease in several aspects of the cities budget. Decreases of approximately $562,000 was seen in the hotel occupancy tax and turn saw cost changes in several city expenditures, which included the Morgantown Conventions and Visitors Bureau and the BOPARC fund.

“We’ve increased those two in order to make adjustments for the decreases in the hotel motel tax revenues,” said Haws. “BOPARC was increased by $20,000 in order to cover the reduction in the coal severance tax,” he said.

The majority of the approximately $1.8 million will be allocated into capital escrow account, so that they can be discussed over with council in how they’ll be allocated. Funds allowing for a balanced give and take of $175,000 will be allocated for the Conventions and Visitors Bureau

Morgantown City Council is making steps towards officially endorsing a piece of national legislation.

The first reading of a resolution formally endorsing H.R. 1 and S.R. 1, also known as the “For The People Act,” was passed unanimously with the hope of trying to show support for the measure on a local level.

“I just wanted to note that I think that it’s important for us as municipalities to indicate our support for laws that support and protect voter rights,” said Morgantown Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty.

H.R. 1 and S.R. 1 was introduced to the newly elected United States Congress by Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD) earlier this year. These bills would include several provisions in regards to voting rights, campaign financing, gerrymandering and the endorsement of Washington D.C. as a statehood. For members of council, national standards on these provisions are what prompts the resolution of support, with the hopes of raising voter turnout in Morgantown’s elections.

“I’d favor opportunities to expand voter participation and I believe that this will do that in a fair and equitable way,” said Morgantown Mayor Ron Dulaney voting in favor of the measure.

The next step for the resolution is to be formally approved on second reading, which is expected to take place during Morgantown City Council’s next meeting. On a state level, the “For The People Act” has not received similar support where 54 of the 55 of West Virginia’s county clerks wrote as a collective to Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito to reject the measure, stating the strong potential of election interference. While most of the state appears to be against the bill, Morgantown City Council is prepared to throw their support on a local level.

“It is something that’s happening on a national level,” said Morgantown City Councilor Jenny Selin. “It’s important on the national, it’s also really important on a state level, that’s where a lot of the interpretation and legislation happens that limits,” she said.

Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty also advised against disbanding the Special Committee on Community Policing and Citizen Review Board during the meeting. According to Fetty, the committee would recruit the nine members to serve on the review board. Once the board is formed, the nine members would develop bylaws and establish goals.