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Ranson business owners complain about tax increase

November 09, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.VA. - Arguing that they were never informed about the increase and that it means "taking less money home," small-business owners in Ranson are complaining about a recent increase in the city's business and occupation tax that has more than doubled their tax bills.

The Ranson City Council in June agreed to increase the so-called B&O tax a little more than half of a percent, which will generate about $2.7 million annually for the city, City Manager Dave Mills said after a city council meeting Wednesday night.

City officials said Wednesday night that the tax increase was needed for several reasons, including to help replace the loss of revenue caused when the AB&C Group Inc. and Kidde Fire Fighting Inc. decided recently to close their operations in Ranson.

Mills said that the loss of the businesses will mean a decrease in revenue for the town of about $100,000 a year.

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The city receives about $1.2 million a year in gambling revenue from Charles Town Races & Slots, but that funding could be threatened by gambling competition from other states or a decision to recalculate how slot machine money is distributed among governments, city officials said at the meeting.

A third reason the tax increase is needed is to pay for better stormwater management programs in town and make other improvements, like those to streets, Mills said.

About 25 business owners showed up at Wednesday's council meeting to hear council members and Mayor David Hamill discuss tax credits that would help ease the impact of the tax increases.

Council members passed the first reading of a set of tax credits that can reduce some businesses' tax bills by up to half, Mills said.

Different credits will be given to businesses that undertake projects like expansions, facade improvements or hire at least 10 more employees, city officials said.

The city council will have a public hearing on the proposed tax credits Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. at City Hall at 312 S. Mildred St. Council members can pass a second and final reading of the credits at the meeting.

Council member Kimberly Biddle raised some concerns about the credits, including how the tax reduction program would be managed.

Council member Howard Shade said he was sympathetic with the concerns of business owners, saying it can be tough to recoup steep tax increases.

Shade's comments brought a round of applause from business owners.

After the council gave preliminary approval to the tax credits, the business owners gathered outside City Hall to talk about the tax increases.

Scott Stewart of Scott's Auto Body at 313 N. Mildred St. said his quarterly tax bill increased from about $463 to $1,452 in September.

"Nobody was informed," Stewart said of the tax increase, although Hamill said the increase was properly advertised in newspapers.

Wanda Hill, co-owner of Hill's Auto Repair on Mildred Street, said her tax bill increased three-fold.

When asked how she plans to deal with the increase, Hill said she has no choice but to move ahead.

"You take less money home, that's what you do," another business owner said.

Hamill said in addition to the newspaper announcements about the proposed tax increase, the city could have notified businesses individually of it.

"You need to know we are responsive to the problems this has created," Hamill said at the meeting.




Going up



Businesses in the City of Ranson in Jefferson County, W.Va., have seen their B&O tax bills increase substantially.

Some examples:

· Scott Stewart of Scott's Auto Body said his quarterly tax bill increased from about $463 to $1,452 in September.

· Steve Hann of Hann Electric said his B&O tax increased by $1,200 to $1,400.

· Wanda Hill, co-owner of Hill's Auto Repair, said her tax bill increased three-fold.

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