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Weirton officials keeping an eye on user fee legislation

USER FEES — According to the West Virginia Municipal League, 10 West Virginia cities currently have municipal user fees on the books. Those include Weirton, Chester and Wheeling. -- Graphic by Steven Allen Adams

WEIRTON — Weirton officials say they are closely following the path of a bill currently before the House of Delegates which could have an effect on how they can raise revenue for certain services.

House Bill 2256 was approved, with an amendment, by the House Political Subdivision Committee on Wednesday, being moved to the House Finance Committee for its consideration. The amended bill would exempt anyone working within a city from having the municipality’s user fee deducted from their pay based solely on their employment.

Weirton is among 10 West Virginia municipalities, according to the West Virginia Municipal League, with such user fees currently under code.

City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo and members of city council discussed the bill during a special meeting Thursday, noting the possible impact such a bill could have on Weirton’s general fund budget.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” DiBartolomeo said. “You have to be careful.”

DiBartolomeo noted current estimates show the user fee set to bring in $925,000 during the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Council currently is in the process of planning its budget.

It was not known exactly how much of that revenue is the result of non-Weirton residents who live in the city.

Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh noted the city has been designating the funds from the user fee toward street paving, adding the impact will be noticeable if those funds are no longer available.

“It’s not going to be a major hit to the budget, but this town is going to look like Afghanistan,” Marsh said.

The City of Weirton instituted its $2 municipal service fee in 2004, with funds directed by ordinance toward public works projects, street department operations, street maintenance, capital projects and public health and safety.

When HB 2256 originally was introduced, the exemption only would have been for state employees working within the city. DiBartolomeo previously stated, under those terms, Weirton would have lost between $12,000 and $13,000.

Chester and Wheeling also have similar user fees established by ordinance.

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

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