Newell to present Parkersburg budget

PARKERSBURG – The 2014-15 budget proposal Mayor Bob Newell plans to present to Parkersburg City Council on Tuesday includes new equipment and a change in the way the city pays for it.

The budget draft was still being finalized late this week as officials await the final budget numbers from the state and Wood County. Finance Director Ashley Flowers said the budget is expected to be within half a million dollars of the current fiscal year’s $25.8 million.

“The big items are kind of typical items,” Newell said.

The mayor is asking council to fund 10 new police cruisers, an increase from the usual six to eight vehicles a year. Newell said the city received a federal grant to cover most of the salaries for three new officers assigned to the three middle schools in the city, the department’s first manpower increase in several years.

The cruisers would cost $246,530 to be paid over three years, Flowers said.

“We’re paying off some police cars this year as well,” Newell said.

Total debt is a little more than a $1 million, but is lower than in years past, the mayor said.

Newell also is asking council for the purchase of a new fire truck through the general fund at a cost of $45,000 a year for $685,748 over a 15-year lease.

A number of fire trucks have been purchased with federal Community Development Block Grant funds, but that requires them to be based in low- to moderate-income areas.

“What happens eventually is if you have no general fund trucks, you’re going to have a fire station, like in North End, that’s empty,” Newell said.

While the police cars and fire trucks would be leased, Newell wants council to avoid financing equipment such as the lights, sirens, cages and decals for the cruisers. That costs a little more than $5,000 per vehicle and has been financed in the past, but the mayor said that creates unnecessary costs.

“That makes no sense to finance that part of it,” he said.

The budget contains no plans for across-the-board pay raises, although Newell said some salaries should be adjusted to reflect new duties or job descriptions as positions have been eliminated or combined over the years. A general increase could happen later this year depending on how much money carries over into the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

“We really have to see what the actual fund balance is going to be at year-end,” Flowers said.

Some increase in revenue, specifically the hotel-motel tax, is anticipated in the coming year, with the opening of a new hotel under construction above the Traffic Circle and the conversion of the long-shuttered Uptowner Inn to an extended-stay hotel.

Newell will present the budget to council during its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building.

The budget will be reviewed by council in a series of hearings chaired by council Vice President Nancy Wilcox. It must be approved by council and submitted to the state auditor by March 28.

Also on the agenda is a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter an agreement with Washington County, Ohio-based Professional Pool Management to once again run the city’s swimming pools this summer and a budget revision to contribute $20,000 to the second phase of the feasibility study for a minor league ballpark and team in the area.

The latter topic will also be discussed during a Finance Committee meeting prior to the full council session. The committee is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the small conference room adjacent to council chambers.