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Charleston mayor proposes city sales tax hike

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Mayor Danny Jones asked city council Monday night to consider raising Charleston’s sales tax an additional one-half percent to help the city cover its pension obligations for police and firefighters.

If raised, the total state and local sales tax in Charleston would be 7 percent effective July 1, 2015. The city already has a half-cent tax to fund renovations to the Charleston Civic Center, and the sales tax would not cover any items not already covered by current taxes.

For the increase to become law, both city council and the state Municipal Home Rule Board would need to approve the increase, since Charleston’s power to institute a sales tax is granted under its home rule designation.

In light of the proposed sales tax increase, Jones is also asking council to withdraw a proposal to raise fire and refuse fees in the city, which could have been approved tonight.

“In doing that, we go outside of people’s homes,” Jones said.

City Manager David Molgaard told the Daily Mail earlier Monday the sales tax increase, if passed, would generate around $6 million for the city in its first year, all of which would go toward pension costs. The tax is projected to generate more revenue each additional year, growing to around $13 million by 2029.

“This isn’t about tax and spend,” he said. “This is about tax because we need it.”

The city currently carries about $287 million in unfunded pension liabilities for police and firefighters. The number represents the cost to the city if all employees eligible to receive pensions were to retire at the same time…

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