By BETH HENRY-VANCE
ELKINS, W.Va. — City of Elkins leaders have been successful in their application to amend the city’s original Home Rule plan, which is designed to offer municipalities more flexible options within the governing process.
Seven of nine proposals were approved by the state’s Municipal Home Rule Board, and two proposals were voluntarily withdrawn based on recent legislative changes, said City Clerk Jessica Sutton.
Overall, Sutton said she and other city officials who’ve worked on the Home Rule application are excited about these new opportunities.
“It’s a pretty big deal, really,” she said in an interview Monday, noting this approval means Elkins City Council has the authority to move forward with proposals if it chooses to do so. Any changes would not become law unless ordinances go through committee and become approved by City Council.
The seven proposals include options to make changes to the following: the municipal sales tax structure; the so-called “Brunch Bill” that would allow restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages earlier on Sundays for consumption on premises; funding allocation for city marketing and tourism; the process to receive approval for intergovernmental agreements; municipal court technology and maintenance fees; community enhancement districts; and the minimum number required on a list of entry-level police officer candidates.
Sutton noted Home Rule changes do not allow municipalities to make amendments to any type of criminal laws or federal regulations. She said some of the proposals, if approved by City Council, would simply offer more flexibility and efficiency outside of state code.
For example, state code currently requires City Council to pass an ordinance, following two readings, in order to approve an intergovernmental agreement.
“It takes three to four weeks, at least,” she said. “It’s just a cumbersome sort of process right now.”
However, the Home Rule proposal would allow the process to move forward with a resolution by City Council, which would require just one reading and less time.
Sutton said another proposal that could become a positive change for the city involves funding limits for city marketing and tourism. Currently, state code prevents the city from spending more than 25 cents per person, per year on marketing and tourism.
“It really limits what we can do,” she said, explaining Elkins and other municipalities that are part of the growing tourism industry need to be able to promote themselves more.
Under the Home Rule proposal, the City Council could choose to approve a higher percentage of its budget to be spent on marketing and tourism, up to $1 per person, per year.
Another proposal, which Sutton said often gets the most attention, is the option that could allow City Council to implement a 1 percent sales tax. She said municipalities could enact that change and create a new revenue stream, within certain limits tied to business and occupation taxes being reduced or eliminated.
Elkins Mayor Van Broughton said City Council members will take on the possible amendments one by one, and they welcome public input.
Broughton added he is excited about exploring new opportunities provided through the Home Rule program.
“It opens up doors for more options for us to explore, and new ideas for the growth of our city,” he said. “It will give us a chance to have a new revenue structure in place, if we decide to go that route. … We’re going in the right direction right now, but this will help us go the next step farther and continue to grow as a city.”
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