SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said he is leaning toward wanting the city to participate in the state's home rule program "but I'm not making a commitment yet.
"We need to wait until the governor signs the bill," Mullens said. "It seems the state Tax Department would take 5 percent of any new tax passed under home rule. It seems to be that there are ever-changing twists to what's going on."
The home rule program began five years ago. Without an extension it would have expired on June 30. The regular session of the Legislature approved an extension but added several new provisions.
The most controversial new provision requires any city that wants to join the program to rescind any restrictive gun ordinances it may have.
Mullens said South Charleston wouldn't be affected nearly as much as Charleston, which has a three-day waiting period for new gun purchases.
"I want to go on the public record saying I, too, oppose the fact they attached a gun bill to home rule," Mullens said. "And trust me, it's not just (Charleston Mayor Danny) Jones and Mullens — I am getting emails from mayors all over the state who are appalled.
"I do want to give a positive shout out to our delegates and representatives who tried to help us," Mullens said. "I want to thank them for everything they did — Sens. (Brooks) McCabe, (D-Kanawha); (Erik) Wells (D-Kanawha); (Corey) Palumbo (D-Kanawha)."
The home rule bill with the gun provision "is what it is," Mullens said. "It's a matter of trying to determine what the final framework is."
The purpose of home rule "is to make us more efficient and effective," he said. "We're so dependent on the business and occupation tax. It is 45 percent of our revenue. We won't do anything that will affective our citizens negative. I think there's a world of potential there. It's a complicated process."
Mullens said he has met with other South Charleston leaders twice to discuss home rule and will have another meeting soon.
Also Thursday evening, council approved the minutes of an April 16 special session. That session was to give final approval to a $21.1 million budget for 2013-2014. The budget was first approved on March 21 by unanimous voice vote.
The budget is $498,000 or 2.4 percent larger than the current spending plan. It does not include an across-the board pay increase for the city's 325 employees but does include step increases, which will total about $400,000, Mullens has said.
The new budget, which begins July 1, also includes one additional police officer and one additional firefighter; an increase in the city's contribution to the police and fire pension plans; and about $485,000 for the city's street paving program, up from about $385,000.