Wood County budget headed to Charleston

PARKERSBURG – Wood County’s $20,153,719 budget for 2013-2014 is on its way to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office for review and approval.

Last year’s total budget was $19,424,443.

On Monday, commissioners reviewed the budget, approved it for signature by commission President Wayne Dunn then turned it over to Clerk Jamie Six to be forwarded to the state for review.

Although the county saw about $700,000 in additional revenue from property taxes, increases in hotel/motel tax collections, video lottery revenues and other sources, county officials said those funds were eaten up by an anticipated 10.7 percent hike in insurance costs, an increase in the required match on retirement, rising fuel and other operating costs.

Some of the additional revenue falls into the revenue- in, revenue-out column, like grants. Another example is hotel/motel tax funds, which are earmarked by state mandates. At least 50 percent of those funds must go to the convention bureau and the remainder to recreation/tourism types of programs and activities.

“No line items other than health care saw significant add-ons,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

The budget also does not include funds for across-the-board pay raises for county employees.

The county’s new fiscal year begins July 1.

Commission President Wayne Dunn praised department heads and elected officials for the most part holding the line on budget requests this year.

“Most were either the same or slightly under last year’s requests,” Dunn said. “We couldn’t give the sheriff everything he wanted. We do have a new sheriff and he felt some changes were needed. He tried to hold the line, but he does have one of the larger budgets among the county offices.”

Commissioners used the same levy rates in calculating the new budget. The rates will be set in April by the county, municipalities, state and board of education.

“There is nothing in the budget, at this point, in the way of employee pay raises. We were fortunate to balance the budget. In June we can re-evaluate it. I think all of us would love to give pay raises of some sort. It bothers us all that we weren’t able to,” Dunn said.

The budget includes $310,787 in a contingencies fund. The contingencies fund cannot exceed 10 percent of the budget.

The commissioners also did not include a requested 10 percent funding increase for services to the Parkersburg Humane Society, but said they will take a look at the issue again in June. The current contract with the humane society doesn’t expire until June 30. Citing raises in health care, utility and medication costs, the agency earlier asked for a 10 percent increase in service fees. The county is paying $271,344 annually for animal control services. Part of the funds to pay for the services come from dog license fees collected by the county, the rest is paid out of the county general fund.

“I was unhappy we were not able to give raises and hopefully we can address that in the future. All the department heads worked well with this in trying to hold the line,” said Commissioner Steve Gainer.

“This was a different process than in years past, we try to address each elected official, but we didn’t spend the time as we have in the past with the officials and their line items and doing a lot of research. But we also didn’t have a lot of money to play with. When the choice becomes increased spending and the only way to do so is to raise taxes, I’m happy to say that none of the commissioners were willing to raise taxes,” Couch said.

As far as funding for outside agencies, Couch said the commission has the opportunity in June to see if costs were held down and if that funding would be available.

“We don’t live in a vacuum. Everyone is impacted by what we do with our budget,” Couch said.

“I will say that if we are going to continue to make changes for a better community, to preserve quality-of-life issues, we are definitely going to need more revenue to do that. During our planning sessions, we need to look at ways to raise more revenue to enhance the quality of life in the community and attract more business,” Dunn said.