Huntington Has Slightly Better Than Projected First Quarter

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Deron Runyon (file photo)
Deron Runyon (file photo)

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) -  Budget cuts and fee increases have been an excruciatingly painful process for both the administration and Huntington City Council. However, sparks of good news came at the Thursday afternoon Finance Committee meeting --- revenue up, expenses less than planned.  The reports cover July, August and September 2011. They do not include any of the recently enacted fees or the cuts.

Finance committee chairman, Steve Williams, displayed guarded optimism following the meeting.

“When you have more than projected revenue ahead of plan and the expenses are coming in less than planned that’s a good thing,” Williams said. “The problem,” he continued,” is we have dealt with the huge deficit , but other things lurk out there, like worker’s compensation. That’s even more reason why what we are doing is something that we have to do to get our financial house in order.  The sooner people understand that, the better off we will be in accomplishing making sure the city’s fiscal house is in order.”

Huntington finance director Deron Runyon told committee members that revenues are about 3.3% greater than actual revenue received at this time last year.  Runyon indicated that “significant increases” have been seen in business and occupation tax receipts (up $570,000), property taxes (up $209,000), utility taxes (up $81,000), City Service/User Fee (up $196,000), Municipal Service Fees (up $75,000), Intergovernmental Services (up $136,000) and miscellaneous (up $118,000 mostly from IRS Recovery Zone bond rebate).

Jim Insco and Williams traded the questioning of Runyon.

The finance director explained that about 26.42% of the fiscal year has been completed and that revenue (not counting grants) has been about 27.88%. Insco asked that in future reports a line item be automatically calculated for “non-grant” collections.

On the expense side, the city is paying about $142,337 per week in health care expenses versus the budgeted $129,483. Last year the insurance expense averaged about $104,673 per week. Due to unfilled positions, payroll costs are running at 26.28% which is a “positive YTD variance of $68,000,” Runyon said.

Overtime expense for the police and fire departments are at 36% and 35% respectively. The fire department OT budget have been cut $99,000 less than FY2001. The police OT is running significantly ahead of budget at 36%; however, chief Skip Holbrook opined that “coming off  summer vacation schedules” played a large part into this.

However, Williams asked for a historical breakdown of OT use by the department. Holbrook offered a guess, but , Williams asked that “real numbers be crunched” so that “the public shares comfort level of Police OT.”

As for the fire department, Brandi Jacob-Jones, director of administration and finance,  explained that a “staffing and organization change” memorandum has been issued.  Conservation will be achieved through covering unscheduled OT with “[on duty] staff and supervisory staff.” She added that the “proven cost effective” so-called “[former fire chief Greg] Fuller Plan” for reduced apparatus scheduling.

In addition, the city has been told to increase Workers Compensation available line of credit from $3.3 to $5 million dollars. Since the deficit crisis surfaced concerning the pension funds, First Sentry is unwilling, even with collateral, to provide the increase. Runyon has asked that HADCO director Mark Sprouse help find a pool of banks, which decreases their risk.

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