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Weirton Council proposing 10 percent B&O credit

MEETING — Weirton Council met in special session Thursday, as part of continuing discussions on plans for the 2021-22 fiscal budget. During the meeting, it was proposed the city offer a 10 percent, across-the-board discount on its business and occupation tax for the remainder of the current fiscal year as a COVID relief program. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — Businesses operating in Weirton may get some relief this year through a proposed credit from the city’s business and occupation tax.

During a special meeting Thursday to discuss the 2021-22 fiscal budget, members of Weirton Council proposed an ordinance which would provide an across-the-board, 10 percent discount on the B&O tax for the final two quarters of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

“It’s a credit against your B&O,” City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo said, explaining the 10 percent credit would be applied to whatever amount was due from the business.

The issue first was raised during a work session Tuesday, during which time Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh asked if it would be possible to offer exemptions to the B&O for the next fiscal year, as a way to offer some tax relief to the Weirton business community, with a goal of $1 million cut from the city’s coffers.

“He was basing that on what Wheeling did,” DiBartolomeo said, referring to a recent decision by Wheeling Council on a business relief package.

The city manager explained, though, Wheeling’s B&O tax normally has no exemptions in any of its categories, with businesses paying a percentage on every dollar. Weirton’s B&O has exemptions in each category, with the tax assessed only after a business reaches a certain threshold of revenue each quarter.

A retail outlet, for example, must bring in at least $125,000 per quarter before it would have to pay the tax, with manufacturing clearing $25 million per quarter.

Finance Director Diana Smoljanovich explained offering the credit during the current fiscal year wouldn’t be a problem, because Weirton has more than $900,000 in its contingency funds to help absorb any loss in revenue.

“It’s very easy to move that if we need to,” she said.

While it wasn’t initially what he proposed, Marsh said he feels the idea will still be a benefit for the community.

“Something is better than nothing,” Marsh said.

Others pointed out most have been affected by the COVID pandemic, and having an across-the-board plan would be the best way to move forward.

“Everybody, in some way or another, has taken some sort of hit,” Ward 5 Councilwoman Flora Perrone said.

Offering the program now could help as businesses look to get back on their feet after the last year, others pointed out.

“That six months could be the difference,” Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel said.

Marsh suggested extending the program past the current fiscal year could be discussed at a later time.

The proposal will be placed on the agenda for the next meeting of the city’s Finance Committee before it can have a formal vote from council, potentially at its March meeting.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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