PARKERSBURG - Mayor Bob Newell floated a pair of ordinances to Parkersburg City Council on Tuesday, seeking to relax the B&O tax burden on new businesses and to increase the use of local labor.
Council had a light agenda, with only two items concerning employee leave donation up for consideration, both of which passed unanimously and without discussion.
Councilman Tom Joyce was absent. The meeting was chaired by vice president Nancy Wilcox. Council member Sharon Lynch attend the meeting by phone.
Newell used the opportunity to suggest two ordinances to council for sponsors and future consideration.
The mayor is asking council to consider enacting a step-increase in B&O taxes for new businesses. He's also seeking a provision for purchase procedures where winning bids for demolition and construction projects would be required to have at least 50 percent of its workforce from the area.
Newell said the ordinances stem from recent developments. The mayor said the city's demolition contract was recently awarded to an outfit from Wheeling. Previous such contracts had gone to a local firm.
"We are obligated to use the lowest bid," he said.
Newell is also seeking a break for local labor. Under the ordinance "local" is defined as residents of Wood, Wirt, Pleasants, Ritchie, Jackson counties in West Virginia and Washington County in Ohio.
The mayor is also asking council to sponsor a step-rate B&O rate for new businesses. Under the current regulations, new business are exempt from B&O tax for the first year, but are required to pay 100 percent the second year.
"For some, that is a lot to overcome," he said.
Newell said a new business is looking to relocate into the city - providing 20-30 new jobs - and inquired about possible incentives.
"B&O will never be an enticement, but it will be easier to swallow if it's gradual," he said.
Under the proposed ordinance, businesses would pay a gradual increase over a five-year period: paying zero the first year, 20 percent the second, 40 percent the third, 60 percent the fourth and 80 percent the fifth.
"It gives business the opportunity to get up and running by the fifth year," he said, adding if businesses can't pay the B&O by then they aren't going to survive.
"If they aren't there for five years we haven't helped them," said council member Jim Reed.
Council member Sharyn Tallman, the Republican candidate for mayor, wasn't keen on the idea. She doesn't think it's fair to new businesses that have recently entered the city and are paying the full share of taxes, while competition can come in and catch a tax break for the next five years.
"B&O is not collected fairly as it," she said. "How many businesses have started up in the last three years?"
"I know what she is saying, but we have got to do something to get some storefronts filled," Reed said, pointing to tax abatements and other incentives already done at the state, county and municipal level to attract business.
Council took no action or discussion on the ordinances as they were not agenda items. Newell said he was only seeking sponsors to get the items on the next council agenda. Councilman John Sandy said he would sponsor both measures.
Reed said the ordinances will be taken to the Finance Committee for consideration.
"We want to encourage business to come into the city, but we need to take a look at them," he said.