Wood County budget finalized

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners approved a $20.3 million budget Monday.

The budget will be submitted to the state tax auditor’s office for review. The deadline for submission is March 28.

The $20,393,513 million budget contains no funds for employee across the board pay raises, includes cuts in the hotel-motel tax budget to some entities, no new employees and has a contingencies fund. The county fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Commission President Wayne Dunn said each year the budget has been getting financially tighter and this was the hardest year yet.

“I have to credit Marty Seufer, our county administrator, for all the work he did; he evaluated practically every line item. We knew it was going to be a tight year. But the budget is balanced and I think it looks pretty decent. We didn’t make any major cuts; just a little here and there,” Dunn said.

Commissioner Blair Couch said the commissioners tried to make better use of the county hotel-motel tax revenue.

“We moved some different organizations into it, provided a cap amount, so they don’t have a flat percentage. It’s a cap amount we are going to provide them. We will be sending out letters to all of them explaining the new procedure, that we are going to provide the money quarterly,” Couch said.

Previously, hotel-motel tax recipients received monthly disbursements.

“There has been some concern some would be cut out completely. We backfilled in a couple of places for groups that used to receive funding from other organizations and tried to be helpful to them,” Couch said.

Under the new budget, Fort Boreman Park, Mountwood Park, Veterans Memorial Park and the Veterans Museum all saw increased funding under the new formula, while all the other entities were decreased.

The commissioners’ new hotel-motel budget shows a balance leftover of $20,699, which Seufer said has been placed aside to subsidize the county maintenance department for possible pay raises. County maintenance workers take care of the county’s three parks in addition to their other duties.

The total projected hotel-motel tax revenue is $715,397. This fund has seen steady revenue increases over the past several years.

The Actors Guild would have received $7,154 under the old formula; it will now be $5,000; Artsbridge would have received $14,308. It is now $10,000; Belleville Homecoming, $5,365, and is now $3,000; Blennerhassett Historical Foundation would have been $3,577 and will now be $2,500; Julia-Ann Square Historic District would have been $7,154, and is now at $5,000; Oil and Gas Museum would have received $10,731, now will get $8,000; Parkersburg Art Center, $10,731, will now receive $10,000; Parkersburg News & Sentinel Half Marathon, $3,577, now is set at $2,500; Parkersburg Homecoming, $17,885, now will receive $15,000; Smoot Theater, $20,746, will now be $15,000; Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, $3,577, now $2,500; West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition, $26,827, now $23,500; Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival, which was in the general county revenue budget, was moved back to the hotel/motel budget, and set at $5,000.

The code pertaining to use of the hotel-motel fund requires at least 50 percent of the funds collected must go to the tourism bureau, which will receive $357,698. The Innovative Programming Grant Program was to get $50,078 and will now receive $45,000.

The budget shows last year’s total hotel-motel tax collections were $671,376.

Projected building permit revenues were $20,000 last year and set at $50,000 for the coming year, one of the few areas that included an increase in the projected revenues.

No funding was provided for additional employees, and county departments’ budgets remained around the same level, other than health insurance cost increases.

“A lot of elected officials were able to use their existing budgets from prior years to increase salaries for their employees. Some elected officials gave more than others. We hope after the first of the fiscal year we can see where we stand and see if there are any adjustments we can make to those employees who did not receive a pay increase over the past fiscal year,” Couch said.

County officials decided to plug in an estimated 20 percent increase for health insurance costs which they are hopeful will end up much lower.

The county pays for single coverage for each of its 200 employees; family coverage is available for an additional cost. For family coverage, the employee pays 35 percent of that additional cost, with the county making up the difference.

Seufer said either through self-funding or other options, the county is hopeful that 20 percent will be much less.

“Through the prosecuting attorney, we were able to reduce what we considered to be a significant increase in the regional jail bill; he’s moving additional staff to be able to cover that and address some of the issues that have been raised in the many meetings we’ve had with court and law enforcement. We think this implementation will help keep that bill low,” Couch said.

Last year, the regional jail bill was projected at around $2 million, but went over that mark, and in the new fiscal year, the commission budgeted $2.25 million for that bill.

There is a contingencies fund in the budget, set at $126,119, which is less than previous years.

Dunn said while the overall process was “nerve-wracking” he’s relieved it’s over.

“We managed to balance it without anyone really getting hurt,” Dunn said, noting he doesn’t anticipate the county will see any increased tax revenue from projected new economic development for a number of years.