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Ranson offers tax credist to businesses

December 06, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.Va. - Ranson City Council members gave final approval Tuesday night to a set of tax credits designed to "soften the blow" of a recent increase in the city's business and occupation tax that has more than doubled some tax bills for businesses.

The tax credits will give a variety of discounts under different scenarios, such as a 50 percent reduction of the business and occupation tax for any business in the "old town" district, which is the general area of Ranson before the annexation of about 3,800 acres, city officials said.

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

Building contractors working on affordable housing projects will be able to reduce their B&O tax by 75 percent to help keep the cost of the housing low, City Manager Dave Mills said.

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City officials have said the tax increase is needed for several reasons, including to help replace the loss of revenue caused after two businesses, the AB&C Group and Kidde Fire Fighting, decided recently to close their operations in Ranson.

The tax increase also is needed to pay for better stormwater management programs and other improvements, Mills has said.

Some business owners have complained about the tax hike, but Mills said Tuesday night that businesses can now enjoy a town that offers better law enforcement, streets and parks.

"We really want to make this community better. It's an emerging community and its getting better every day," Mills said.

Ranson Mayor David Hamill said the tax credits will stay in effect as long as the city continues to receive a steady stream of revenue from slot machines at Charles Town Races & Slots.

"We recognize it was quite a blow," Hamill said of the tax hike.

A group of local business representatives was at Tuesday's city council meeting and one Ranson business owner complained about the city's spending practices.

Becky Briggs, co-owner of Briggs Welding & Radiator Repair Service on 7th Avenue, remarked about the city's expansive annexations and said the city should not have allowed its budget to get as big as it has become.

"That just costs us more money," Briggs said.

"They were going to come anyway," Mills said of the annexations.

Ranson has annexed about 3,800 acres since 2002, growth that has expanded Ranson's boundaries to the east, west and north of its former configuration.

County officials complain the annexations have created confusing boundaries in the county and interfere with their land-planning efforts.

Ranson officials have strongly defended the annexations, saying they are key to creating a strong economy.

City officials say another reason for the tax hike is to offset any reductions in revenue from slot machines.

Although the city receives about $1.2 million from slot machines at Charles Town Races & Slots per year, 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.

Without the B&O tax hike, the city would have to cut its budget about 60 percent if slot machine revenue dried up, Mills said.

The tax credits go into effect Jan. 1.

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