Parkersburg council to vote on home rule

PARKERSBURG – A resolution for the city to apply to a state home rule program is being sponsored by eight of Parkersburg’s nine city council members.

The resolution will come up for a vote Tuesday at council’s regularly scheduled meeting.

The resolution authorizes the city to apply for participation in the state’s Home Rule Pilot Program. Four cities have been participating in the program, but recent changes at the state level may allow for 10 or more new cities to participate.

Home Rule would allow the city flexibility on a variety of issues, from taxes to business licensing to tearing down abandoned structures.

The resolution is sponsored by eight of council’s nine members. Only Councilman John Kelly is not listed as a sponsor.

Kelly could not be reached for comment Friday.

Mayor Bob Newell and several members of council have been pushing for the city’s participation in the program. Newell said Friday he is confident council will pass the resolution to seek participation in the program.

“It looks pretty good,” he said. “It’s really a no-brainer. It’s do you want to run the city as city council, or do you want Charleston to do it?”

Newell said the resolution would only be the first step in the process. The state Legislature is still debating whether to open the program up to a handful of additional cities or to all cities.

“Really, this resolution is encouraging the Legislature to pass it, and if it does come into place we would apply to be a home rule city,” he said.

Newell said while taxation is often the focus of any home rule discussion, it is only one aspect of the program.

“The list of options is pretty significant. It allows us to try different things,” he said. “It allows you as a city to look at anything governed by state law and potentially do it differently.”

Newell said he has been adamant any new tax established through home rule would be used to reduce existing taxes or fees, such as the city’s Building and Occupation Tax, which Newell said is a burden on local businesses.

“If we can reduce B&O tax by having even a half-percent sales tax, that is something we would do,” he said. “We are not looking at increasing revenue, but finding better sources of revenue.”