Council Puts B&O Tax on Ice, Kibosh on Cell Phone Usage During Meetings

by Shanet Clark

Huntington - Confident sales tax revenue will prevent any budget short-fall,  City Council on Monday voted to suspend the B & O tax. 

The motion to suspend the retail and restaurant B&O tax was moved on the second reading by Bob Bailey and seconded by Holly Mount, before passing unanimously at 8:02 pm.  Due to the pandemic, the tax was suspended in April 2020 due to the pandemic, and was tabled permanently at the suggestion of  Mayor Steve Williams.

During the meeting, Williams made clear his disdain for the tax which was enacted a century ago.

"Since it's a tax on gross, not net, income, I hate it," Williams said. "The reason I hate it is because if their expenses exceed their revenue, they still have to pay the tax."

"I'm proud of helping remove the B&O tax on manufacturing a few years ago, and this permanent suspension tonight on retail and restaurant income will make the Huntington business environment more competitive with our regional competitors," he added.

The B&O tax, with some exceptions, generally demanded one percent of the gross receipts on any contractor, purveyor, professional, financial, wholesale or retail seller within the city limits, remitted quarterly. Contractors and government contracts were taxed at one percent of the gross income while some individuals had to pay only one half of one percent.

By 2015 the manufacturing B&O tax was reduced to zero, the restaurant and retail B&O to a quarter of one percent, amusements and services to one half per cent, with rents and banking financial earnings remaining at the standard one percent. Electric, gas and other utilities face higher charges, often two, three and four per cent of their gross revenue in the city.

In other business, Council  passed 8-2 a resolution prohibiting members from using electronic devices during meetings. The resolution was spearheaded by Chairman Mike Shockley after text messages received by a council member during an executive personnel session was made public. 

Councilmen Todd Sweeney and Tyler Bowen voted against the resolution.

Along with discussion  about speeding on Staunton Rd., rainwater infrastructure needs, and a $721,000 highway safety grant, Council unanimously authorized approval of a $4.5 million Small Business Association "Shuttered Venue Operators" grant for the Mountain Health Arena.  Previously available only to private venues, the COVID-19 relief measure was recently expanded to include municipal auditoriums.