Parkersburg budget hearings begin

Public works departments considered

Photo by Evan Bevins From left, Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce, Finance Director Eric Jiles and Public Works Director Everett Shears answer questions during the first municipal budget hearing Wednesday in City Council chambers.

PARKERSBURG — City Council began the 2018-19 budget hearings Wednesday with a rundown of the various departments falling under the umbrella of public works.

Among the topics was the user fee fund, the bulk of which goes to street repairs. Revenue for the fund — assessed at a rate of $2.50 a week on everyone who works in the city — is projected to remain steady at $2,320,000, but the budget also includes an infusion of a little over $1.5 million to “front-load” the annual paving project.

That money is part of the proposed appropriation of $9.2 million the city had previously allocated over the years for the total liability of retiree health benefits, an amount that was billed but not paid.

In his budget message last week, Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce said that under the provisions of the municipal charter, the city had to allocate those funds, even though they were not payable. A recent change in government accounting standards negated that requirement, meaning the city must reallocate those funds.

The $1.5 million would allow the city to pay for the annual paving program in the spring, rather than borrowing money from reserves and repaying it when the new budget year starts.

Photo by Evan Bevins Parkersburg City Council Vice President Zach Stanley, standing, who is chairing the municipal budget hearings, hands a proposed amendment to Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl during Wednesday’s hearing in council chambers.

There will still need to be money appropriated in the current fiscal year for the paving program to start this spring, before the fiscal year begins on July 1. Joyce said no funding source has been determined for the paving advance, which would require a budget revision approved by City Council.

City officials did note that half a million dollars of the proposed project would be dedicated specifically to concrete slab replacement, with $1 million for asphalt. Much of the paving work in recent years has focused on asphalt streets.

“Most of the city is asphalt of course, but it’s time we start putting a little bit into the concrete streets,” Public Works Director Everett Shears said after the meeting.

The user fee budget also includes contributions of $400,000 each to the Police and Fire departments.

Looking at revenue figures for the budget, Finance Director Eric Jiles noted a reduction of $30,000 in the projection for the vacant property registry. He said some properties are coming off the list, either because owners are addressing code violations or appealing their property’s inclusion.

“I think this $84,000 number is a little more right-sized,” Jiles said.

The Parks and Recreation Fund includes a $185,000 subsidy from the general fund, in order for it to break even after revenue from pool passes, pavilion rentals and other sources are taken into account.

“The pools are part of the parks. The parks in general don’t pay for themselves,” Joyce said.

The Memorial Bridge budget includes $40,000 to install LED lighting along the bridge, as well as funds to repair the treadle system that monitors the number of axles on vehicles crossing the bridge.

Jiles said traffic on the bridge is up, but there’s not enough data to determine the impact on revenue, so it is projected to remain flat at $1,795,000.

The Streets Department line item for supplies — including gravel, asphalt, concrete and piping — was increased from $100,000 to $158,000 to reflect the rate of work done in the current fiscal year, Jiles said.

“This past year, we have completed a lot of projects throughout the city,” Shears said, including rebuilding inlets, grading alleys, drainage and street repairs.

Jiles presented council members with a proposed amendment to reflect the most recent property tax estimates from the Wood County Assessor’s Office, which weren’t available during preparation of the budget. It reduces the projected revenue by $51,410, which the administration proposed to balance by reducing the allocation to the stabilization fund.

No action was taken, with amendments planned to be addressed in the final budget hearing on March 16.

The budget hearing schedule was reshuffled a bit to include the Point Park Marketplace, Code Administration and Municipal Building with the other public works departments. That did not leave enough time in the two-hour schedule for the Fire Department, which will be the first department considered when the hearings resume at 3 p.m. Friday.

Another schedule change moved the Police Department from March 14 to March 12. That means all departments will have been considered prior to the public hearing on the budget during the March 13 council meeting.

***

Parkersburg Budget Hearing Schedule

* 3-5 p.m. Friday — Fire, Municipal Judge, City Attorney, City Clerk, Personnel, contributions from other funds, Mayor, City Council, Finance, Development, civil service, minor cost centers.

* 6 p.m. Monday, March 12 — Police

* 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13 — public hearing on proposed budget during the regular City Council meeting

* 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 — callbacks, if necessary

* 6 p.m. Friday, March 16 — amendments

COMMENTS