PARKERSBURG - Parkersburg City Council members spent Saturday morning questioning city officials about police cars, fire department staffing levels, health insurance costs, software costs and travel.
City officials reviewed the proposed 2011-2012 city budget with council members, acting as the Committee of the Whole.
The group spent about two and half hours reviewing the proposed $23.7 million budget and questioning officials Saturday morning.
Photo by Jody Murphy
City Attorney Joe Santer and Mayor Bob Newell look over the proposed city budget Saturday during Parkersburg City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
"This is council's budget," Mayor Bob Newell said. "The only reason we are here this morning is to help you; provide the forecast on revenue and expenses."
The committee made no recommendations or changes to the proposed $23.7 million budget. Council President Jim Reed said he felt members needed time to digest the budget and review explanations from city officials before making changes to the budget.
At least one council member thinks the city can reduce some of its proposed spending.
Working on the Numbers
Parkersburg City Council met as the Committee of the Whole on Saturday to review the proposed 2011-2012 city budget prepared by the city administration.
Mayor Bob Newell said the proposed $23.7 million includes personnel cuts, increased employee shares for health insurance and no longevity raises.
The budget will be up for consideration by city council at the March 8 meeting.
Council member Brad Kimes said he would like to see some proposed purchases cut. Newell said the city will pay off eight police cars in June and would like to purchase six new vehicles.
Council member Sharyn Tallman cited a memo from March 2010 which stated the city had 88 police vehicles. Newell, Police Chief Joe Martin and Finance Director Doug Life noted all vehicles have to be listed, but the listed vehicles weren't necessarily road-worthy.
Newell and Martin noted a row of out-of-service police cars at the recycling center that are cannibalized for parts before being junked.
"It is more relevant not how many vehicles we have, but how many are road-worthy," Reed said.
Martin said the city has approximately 70 police vehicles, about 50 of which are dependable.
Kimes said the city can get by purchasing only three police cars instead of six and not buying another street sweeper.
Newell said the city has made personnel cuts across the board. However, officials are seeking to bring fire department staffing levels to 60 employees. The proposed budget calls for three of the six vacancies to be filled. Some council members asked if that included the possibility of replacing three other firefighters who are facing possible termination.
Officials said yes, stating the goal was to maintain 60 firefighters.
Personnel Director Pam Salvage told council members that city employees will pay 15 to 30 percent of their health insurance premiums, depending on salary range and smoking factors. Employees who make under $30,000 will pay 15 to 20 percent of insurance costs (smoking vs. non-smoking). Employees who make between $30,000 and $36,000 will pay 20 to 25 percent and employees who make more than $36,000 will pay 25 to 30 percent.
Newell said elected officials, including council, are in the highest tier and will pay 25 to 30 percent.
There are also no longevity pay raises in the budget.
The city is seeking to spend $12,000 for software and computer upgrades related to the implementation of the user fee. Life said the city can either spend the money on upgrades or hire more employees. He said the software would be cheaper.
Tallman wondered if there would be any additional maintenance costs. She pointed to a few years ago when the city purchased software and later discovered a large annual sum of money had to be spent on maintenance and upkeep of the programs.
Life said there will be additional costs with the software, but said the $25,000 a year scattered through various departments for computer maintenance and upgrades would cover things.
City officials also lumped the mayor and council's travel budget into the mayor's budget.
The proposed travel has been significantly reduced, dropping from more than $8,000 to $2,500. With the money in the mayor's line item, any travel by council requires a budget revision and subsequent council vote. Previous council travel required no action.
"There has been so much discussion about travel, particularly council's travel," Newell said.
John Sandy was the only council member absent Saturday. He notified City Clerk Connie Shaffer on Friday that he had to work Saturday and couldn't attend. Sandy included a list of items for consideration, none of which were discussed Saturday.
In addition to the city officials present, a handful of residents also attended the meeting, including two members of the Parkersburg Tea Party.
The committee took no action Saturday following its review of the budget, opting instead to recess until the March 8 meeting of city council when they will take action as council on the budget.