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Harpers Ferry is newest WV home rule city

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. — Harpers Ferry has been accepted into the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program Phase III, making it the first Class IV municipality to receive home rule status.

The Municipal Home Rule Board met Monday in Charleston to decide on Harpers Ferry’s and Elkins’ home rule application and to consider amendments to Bridgeport’s and South Charleston’s home rule plans.

Originally, Class IV municipalities were not allowed to apply for home rule status. Municipalities in West Virginia are classified by population. Towns with less than 2,000 residents based on the last Census are classified as Class IV. Harpers Ferry’s population was 286 according to the 2010 Census.

The original pilot program was adopted by the state Legislature in 2007. It was open to only five Class I-III municipalities. Four applied and were accepted.

In 2013, the West Virginia Legislature expanded the program to 20 cities and opened it to all municipalities regardless of size. The Town of Bath, or Berkeley Springs, a Class IV city applied, but was not accepted. Officials said that its size did not affect its application.

On March 14, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 323 permitting 14 additional cities in the Home Rule Pilot Program, four of which must be Class IV municipalities.

Harpers Ferry applied for home rule status Nov. 10.

Its application includes a 1 percent sales tax, which is allowed under home rule if the town’s business and occupation tax is eliminated or reduced. As part of its home rule plan, Harpers Ferry will reduce the B&O tax on amusements by 10 percent and eliminate the B&O tax on any business that has less than $10,000 gross receipts annually.

According to its application, Harpers Ferry expects to raise about $56,000 in net sales tax revenues. That includes about $2,100 in lost B&O tax revenues with the reductions.

Other parts of Harpers Ferry’s home rule plan concern quicker and easier ways to address blighted properties.

Harpers Ferry Mayor Greg Vaughn could not be reached by press time.

Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128, or twitter.com/jmcveyJN.

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