Wood County Commissioners hear budget requests

Photo by Brett Dunlap Wood County Assessor David Nohe, left, and Chief Deputy Assessor Andy Hartleben appear before the Wood County Commission Thursday to discuss their budget requests for the 2019-20 fiscal year as Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, back left, and Sheriff Steve Stephens listen in.

PARKERSBURG — Many county officials did not ask for a lot in their budget requests for the upcoming 2019-20 budget, indicating they understood the county’s finances would be tight again.

Wood County Assessor David Nohe, 911 Director Rick Woodyard, IT Administrator Chris Whittaker, County Clerk Mark Rhodes and Maintenance Supervisor Melvin Swiger appeared before county commission on Thursday to go over their budget requests.

The commission began work this week on putting together a budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year which will start in July.

“The goal of the commission in budget is to listen to the electeds, hear what they want and tell us any highlights,” said Commission President Blair Couch. “We will consider it.

“We can’t tell them right now what we are going to do. We are having a tough budget year.”

Photo by Brett Dunlap Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard was one of several county officials who appeared before the County Commission Thursday to discuss their budget requests for the upcoming 2019-20 fiscal year. Commissioners reported they don’t believe they will have a significant increase in money and funding levels will be comparable to the current year.

The county has a major expense this year from buying new election machines. The machines will be paid for over four years with $192,876 slated to be allocated out of the new year’s budget.

Officials have said they have not seen a significant increase in property values this year, with assessed values remaining comparable to last year, so funding would end up being similar to last year.

Last year, the county approved a $21.6 million budget for 2018-19. The rate on Class 1 property was set at 13.49 last year; Class 2 property was 26.98; and Class 3 property was 53.96. The county expected to raise around $12.45 million from property taxes last year.

Officials have said tax collections fell below expectations in a number of areas. They will be looking at what was collected compared to what was budgeted as they try to figure out what to budget this year.

Couch said there are expenses the county cannot set, such as FICA, group insurance costs and retirement.

Chief Deputy Assessor Andy Hartleben said the Assessor’s office budget request is $14,340 less than last year.

“We are doing everything we would like to accomplish with this budget,” he said.

Nohe said they have been able to accomplish a lot with what they have, compared to other Assessor’s’ offices in the state who have larger staffs.

“I thought these numbers would be up,” he said of property assessments. “I think we will have a good year coming up.

“It all takes time.”

Woodyard said his budget request is the same as last year, with additional money being requested for specific line items, like utility expenses and maintenance, offset by some reductions. The center is applying for grant funding that could cover half the director, deputy director and communications director salaries, he said.

Woodyard said 911 centers all over the state are losing landline fees and a new model will have to be devised as more people are switching over to cell phones as their primary phones. Cell fees are being collected and will be readjusted in July, Woodyard said.

“The landline fee is a dinosaur,” Woodyard said. “It is an antiquated funding system from 20 years ago.

“We have to find another mechanism,” he said.

Whittaker said his budget was similar to last year. He met with a number of department heads to figure out what might be needed in the coming year and plan for it.

“I don’t see any need to ask for anything additional,” Whittaker said. “All of the projects we have coming up this year we can do within budget, barring any unforeseen circumstances, which unfortunately come up with IT sometimes.”

Rhodes said his budget will remain similar to the last couple of years. Changes in technology are helping with document storage as they are scanning more documents. They have been able to empty out old filing cabinets of documents that have been scanned, Rhodes said.

The election budget is the same. Rhodes has some unknowns as he expects printing and copying expenses to go down.

Swiger said his department has run into some unforeseen problems, including motorized fans in air ducts that need fixed or replaced.

The maintenance budget has been pushed hard this year as a variety of needs came up.

“We have pretty much maxed out everything we have,” County Administrator Marty Seufer said. “It has been tough. They have been doing a great job. It has just been a tough year.”

Swiger said they have qualified people working in their department, including an electrician, plumber, drywaller and others who can do a variety of work.

“We have been able to do a lot in-house,” he said. “We have an outstanding crew.”

Swiger said he understood the county’s tight finances, but if an increase in salaries could be worked in, it would help them retain people.

“Raises would be awesome,” he said.