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Town council moves forward on tax increases

By Staff | Jun 20, 2016

Shepherdstown’s Town Council had a second reading and passed the 8 percent water rate increase to pay for a dedicated water line to transport water from the plant to water tanks. Council and Public Works officials believe this will be a step in the right direction to address the issue of contaminants in the water. The 8 percent increase is just on the water portion of the bill and will not affect sewer rates.

In accordance with Home Rule implementation, council had a first reading to amend and reduce the business and occupation tax imposed on utilities from 4 percent to 3.8 percent. This will result in a slight decrease in residents’ electric bill. The town will see a minor reduction in revenue from the decrease, but will simultaneously implement a 1 percent sales tax in town. Several neighboring towns already have a similar 1 percent sales tax in place to generate revenue. Some business owners say a reduction in the B & O tax makes more sense because a business has to pay that even if they are losing money, whereas the sales tax is added on when a customer makes a purchase. However, some businesses have also expressed concern that a higher sales tax could reduce the number potential shoppers and diners, thereby resulting in less revenue for the town.

“Part of what we’re doing is planning ahead for the future,” said Mayor Auxer. “For example, the town donated $15,000 last year to the fire company. We donated $1,000 a month to the library. So as the decrease from the video lottery happens, we really don’t want to decrease any of our donations. I don’t want to wait until the last minute. I want to have these things in place.”

These proposed ordinance amendments will have a second reading at July’s meeting, and if passed, would be implemented in July of 2017.

A public hearing was held and approval given to have a first reading next month of the renewal of Shepherdstown’s Comcast franchise agreement. The agreement gives Comcast the right to provide cable services to the town in exchange for paying a franchise authority fee. Comcast pays the fees quarterly and the contract expires in 15 years.

In the mayor’s report, Mayor Auxer is making a public plea for help maintaining the beauty of Shepherdstown.

“We always want to put our best foot forward,” said the mayor. “We’re asking the home owners and businesses to pull weeds along the sidewalks and curbs. And again reminding people to dispose of dog waste and cigarette butts into proper receptacles. Visitors aren’t going to want to stay and visit if the town looks overgrown and unkempt.”

Cheryl Roberts from the Parks and Recreation committee, and incoming council member presented a plan for a river front park, and for it to be aptly named, River Front Park, as it was known years ago.

The proposed area would be an extension of Princess Street and would encompass a quarter of an acre.

“This parcel of land is already owned by the town,” said Roberts, “but it’s under utilized. We want to make the best use of this property by offering a scenic, inviting area not only for people who use the river, but also as an alternate location for people to mingle and enjoy the town.”

Roberts also stated that the old tobacco warehouse in that area is undergoing renovation and would be a location for people to store their boats.

Council member, David Rosen suggested petitioning the public in the future for ideas for a beach area or some other sort of gradual entry into the water other than the boat ramp.

Mayor Jim Auxer also recognized the years of service of the outgoing members of Town Council at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Wanda Smith, Karene Motivans and Bane Schill did not seek reelection and will be replaced by incoming council members in July.

Town Council meets the second Tuesday of every month at Town Hall, 104 N. King Street. Information can be found on the website: www.shepherdstown.us.