BRIDGEPORT -- A group of Bridgeport businesses presented two petitions to Bridgeport City Council Monday with 69 signatures, including 21 stores at Meadowbrook Mall, protesting the city's proposed business and occupation tax increase. Officials say the increase is needed to balance the city's $6.1 million budget.
Donnie Snyder, the owner of Bridgeport Foodland, served as the spokesperson for the group of businesses that were on hand Monday. Like the others, he said the increase, although listed as just pennies for every $100 dollars in sales, will hurt.
"Last year I paid $20,000 alone in B&O taxes (to the city of Bridgeport)," said Snyder. "I could hire another part time person with the increase in B&O."
Snyder isn't the only one who thinks the situation will cut into business. Drew Pomeroy, who is a vice president with Bridgeport's Citynet, said it could cost his business an additional $10,000 to $15,000 a year.
"Our biggest concern is we don't know what's going on," said Pomeroy. "They say the increase is due to health care and other personnel matters, but those are the same increases and costs that every business is dealing with. What will the city be providing us with for the additional $10,000."
Along with Snyder and Pomeroy, several others either voiced their concern or signed the petitions that was submitted Monday. Also speaking on behalf of many city businesses opposing the tax increase were the owners of Showtime Music and The Prescription Shop.
Despite the concerns, the council passed the increase at last night's meeting. The increase will add $388,000 to the city's coffers.
According to city recorder Mike Conley, who served as the acting mayor in the absence of Mayor Joe Timms, the added revenue will be used to finance the capital budget. Conley said the increase will only cover the shortfall and should have been increased higher to balance the budget. Conley also told business owners that most of Bridgeport's sister cities charge a maximum rate of 100 percent in most B&O tax categories, while Bridgeport is below that number in several categories.
"If the economy stays the same as it is now, the tax increase will only hold for two years," said Conley.
City Finance Director Keith Boggs has said the increase is the first in 30 years for the city. He has said the increase is needed as revenues level out.