Town of Bath proposes municipal sales tax of 1%

by Trish Rudder

The Bath Town Council unanimously passed a first reading approving Ordinance 2024-05-17, “Municipal Sales and Use Taxes” that could go into effect in the first quarter of 2025 if a second reading is approved.

The second reading of the rules that would put the extra sales tax in effect is scheduled for Tuesday, June 4 at the Bath council meeting.

At the May 21 meeting, Ordinance Committee chair Councilman Greg Schene said after much discussion, the council decided a 1% sales tax was needed in order to sustain operations in the town.

“We can’t manage our way out of it. It’s a necessary evil and was not easily made,” Schene said in the meeting.

He said the 1% sales tax will bring the Town of Bath into par with other municipalities. About 100 municipalities in West Virginia have a 1% tax, Schene said, including the Town of Paw Paw in western Morgan County. That tax is added on top of the state sales tax of 6% on most retail purchases and some professional services.

Schene said the town needs sidewalks from the park to businesses like Lot 12, Ravenwood and the Berkeley Springs Depot.

Grants can provide 80% funding for projects like those, but it’s hard to come up with the 20% match, he said.

Lot 12 Restaurant owner Betsy Heath asked if the council had a discussion for a ½% increase instead of 1% because the town has added so many fee increases for business services.

Town Recorder Susan Webster said the town’s fees and taxes have not been raised for a long time.

“The town businesses are not a fan,” Heath said.

“Any business is not a fan of tax,” Webster said.

“This is a pass through. B&O is a predatory tax; 1% is more palatable,” Webster said of the sales tax, which will be paid by customers of businesses in the town limits.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Skinner said in the past she was against raising taxes, but she has a better understanding of what is involved to keep the town running.

“We need a solid police department” and have the funds to pay them. “We have to fix our streets, trash picked up,” Skinner said.

“We have to be self-sustaining,” Councilwoman Mary Lynn Hickey said.

“Businesses will leave,” said town resident Priscilla Jones.

“We are trying to give businesses better service,” said Mayor Scott Merki.

The ordinance can be downloaded from the Town website under “Government – Municipal Code – Draft Ordinances” or a copy of the ordinance can be obtained at the Town of Bath office at 271 Wilkes Street.