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UPDATED: Council Passes Budget Revision that Taps Contingency Fund to Ensure Current Police, Fire Strength through Fiscal Year

Updated 39 weeks ago Photos by Crystal St. Clair, by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor

Huntington City Council has passed a revised budget proposal that does not fund the Big Sandy Superstore Arena and a retirement in the Mayor's Office. The revision assures that the Police and Fire Departments will be maintained at their current revised levels.

LINK:  Revision with numbers, http://www.huntingtonnews.net/sites/default/files/n64/Scanned%20from%20a%20Xerox%20Multifunction%20Printer(2).pdf

Council has passed a revision to the budget that taps the rainy day fund to ensure maintaining police and fire service at its current levels.

However, the term 'rainy day' fund is often used by the State of WV, not City of Huntington.

Former Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe told HNN that during his administration a line item with that term was not mentioned. Former council member Scott Caserta explained that this was the contingency fund.

Although the revision funds police and fire at the revised lower staffing levels, it does not explain alterations to the city's user fee which increased from $3 to $5 in 2015.

At that time, the increase was designated for "The proposal would assign $600,000 to the police department for additional hiring , vehicles and equipment. Street paving would be increased from one million to $1.6 million and a separate line item would be created for $1 million dollars in slips and repairs."

Communications Director Brian Chambers explained in a Q and A:

How could the city be facing budget problems when the user fee was increased from $3-a-week to $5-a-week in the fall of 2015?

ANSWER: The user fee, which provides revenue for police protection and capital improvement projects, is budgeted to generate $7.8 million this fiscal year. The budgets for the Police Department and Public Works departments, however, total $19.3 million. Therefore, the user fee supplements those departmental budgets. It does not generate enough revenue to reflect the true costs of police protection and capital improvement projects.

However, it should be noted that when the user fee was implemented in 2002, the Police Department had 74 police officers. After the reductions that the mayor authorized on Jan. 26, the Police Department has 99 officers. The user fee revenue that goes to the Police Department also provides for a little less than half of its personnel and operating costs. The user fee also has been vital to infrastructure in the City of Huntington. From 2009-2016, the city paved nearly 43 miles of roads.

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