Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

West Orange seeks sales tax to increase business

Voters in the city of West Orange will decide whether their city will have a special economic development corporation to draw more businesses. The city will have a special sales tax on the November ballot with early voting to start on Monday, October 23.

West Orange has a proposal to add a fraction-of-a-penny per dollar sales tax and use the proceeds to establish a City of West Orange Economic Development Corporation.

Mayor Randy Branch said the proposed tax rate of one-fourth of one percent will add 25 cents per $100 purchased of items under the state sales tax rules. It will apply only to the sales tax and not to property taxes, he said.

The additional tax, if approved, will give the city a total of 1.5 percent sales tax, the same rate all the other cities in Orange County have. Currently, West Orange has the lowest city sales tax.

West Orange borders the construction site of the new $8.5 billion Golden Triangle Polymers petrochemical plant. "There are folks coming in all the time now looking for places" for business opportunities, the mayor said. "If we had some money available, we could entice them to West Orange."

When cities get more businesses to build or locate, the cities can increase their income from property taxes and sales taxes.

The city of Orange is currently the only entity in Orange County with an economic development sales tax and its own economic development corporation. Voters there approved a half-cent per dollar sales tax in 2002.

Mayor Branch said if voters in West Orange approves the economic development sales tax, the city council will appoint a board of directors for the West Orange Economic Development Corporation. The board will have seven members that may include city councilors or city staff members. At least three of the seven board members must be appointed from the general public.

The Orange Economic Development Corporation was set up to include the mayor and two councilors among the seven board members.

All expenditures by an economic development corporation must be approved by the board of directors during a public meeting, and then by a separate vote of the full city council.

Mayor Branch said the city currently has a quarter-cent per dollar street tax used only for repaving and improving city streets. That tax brings in $20,000 to $25,000 a month, he said; so based on that, he estimates the economic development tax could bring in about $250,000 a year.

The city has the only Wal-Mart superstore in this part of the county. Mayor Branch said the West Orange Wal-Mart draws from a population radius with 40,000. The city has a population of about 3,300. The mayor said that means some 36,700 people shopping at Wal-Mart and paying the sales tax will not be residents of West Orange.

"It makes very little sense for West Orange to not have the quarter-percent sales tax on people who shop at Wal-Mart," he said.

State law governs how economic development sales taxes may be used. Some of those uses can be assistance with acquiring land, buildings, equipment, or infrastructure. The money can also be used for certain "quality of life" projects that might include parks.

Mayor Branch said the city council has no specific plans for the special sales tax, but he has some ideas.

He said the town has been looking run-down and the city has been working to demolish dilapidated buildings. Sites where the dilapidated buildings once stood could be used for business or residential opportunities.

Some cities, including Nederland, have used economic development tax money to buy land to offer developers.

The city of Orange has used a lot of its economic development tax grants for infrastructure, mainly to cover the costs of water and sewer service installation.

Mayor Branch said that type of infrastructure would be unavailable to West Orange, though. The city does not operate the water and sewer department. West Orange has a separate special district, the Orange County Water and Improvement District 2, that provides water and sewer services.

The West Orange economic development sales tax will be on the November 7 general election, which mainly has proposed amendments to the Texas State Constitution. It is not the election date for local county offices like sheriff. The party primary races for those offices will be in March.

Early voting for the West Orange economic development sales tax will be held at the Orange Public Library, Mauriceville Community Center, Orange County Airport, and the Raymond Gould Community Center in Vidor. Eligible registered voters may go to any of the polling sites.

The early voting hours will be Monday, October 23, through Friday, October 27, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The early voting will continue on Monday, October 30, through Wednesday, November 1, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Extended hours will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 4, and Friday, November 3.


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