Proposed Huntington Budget for Fiscal 2018 Goes for a Council Vote

Updated 35 weeks ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Proposed Huntington Budget for Fiscal 2018 Goes for a Council Vote

Two hours of public discussion and a non-public executive session resulted in a unanimous vote to accept the modified fiscal 2018 budget  for submission to the state auditor. Council chairman Mark Bates stressed that the document remained a flexible work in progress as some issues still beleaguer the proposal.

The budget is due March 28 at the state auditors office.

The submission includes council tweaks that would add five police officers and seven firefighters after the July 1, 2017 starting date.

Proposed Huntington Budget for Fiscal 2018 Goes for a Council Vote

Council removed $325,000 from police overtime to salaries increasing the number of officers from 98 to 103. They sought to provide funds for the match to a SAFER grant (about $100,000) through not filling a vacant maintenance position ($34,800) and the remaining amount ($65,200) from unscheduled overtime.

Bates clarified after the meeting that the award of the SAFER grant appeared a near certainty , thus, removing, for now, the alternate plan to fund two firefighters if it is not received.

Alex Vence, council vice chairman, came prepared with a discussion proposal to reduce the number of Captains in HPD from five to three. The body had raised concerns that the five captains all work the day shift then are called out for overtime which by contract must be a minimum of four hours payment. The four hour requirement was scrutinized  for call outs on other levels whether for court appearances or neighborhood discussions.

Tonia Paige, newly elected council member, insisted that the police, fire and city must learn to live within their budget, like ordinary households.

"We can't afford what it's costing us," Paige said. "We can't pay OT when we do not have it."

Both Jan Rader, interim fire chief, and Joe Ciccarelli, police chief, acknowledged that following the lay offs their departments are supervisor heavy.

Ciccarelli defended the current structure and warned of "unintended consequences" to a structure overhaul. For one, attrition would be the manner for reducing the number of captains, but two of those in the current positions become eligible for retirement.

The police chief added that "there's always extra duty officers" due to insufficient staffing. Calls subject to priority may back up for two hours.

Major incidents , such as murder, bring "all hands on deck" in call outs.

HPD has been heavily watched  for Captain OT payments for weekend , non reimbursed special community events, which will be watched closely.   

Proposed Huntington Budget for Fiscal 2018 Goes for a Council Vote

Finance Chairwoman Joyce Clark indicated that she had circulated an e-mail that the committee meet fifteen minutes following each council work session to ensure that departments are managing their budget.

During discussion of Vence's restructuring , Mayor Steve Williams mentioned that in order for police or fire to be designated non-contractual under Article 200, amendments would be required regarding overtime calculations.

Both Williams and city attorney Scott Damron acknowledged that the definition is contained in the collective bargaining agreements.

HPD provided a list of 47 Emergency Command Vehicles which are driven home. One of those is by Mayor Williams. Response must be within 30 minutes per procedures.

A glance at the list indicates that assignments include command staff, SWAT, K-9, criminal/crash investigations, and crisis management.

Early in the meeting, city manager Cathy Burns explained that the assistant finance director is leaving to take the finance director position in Barboursville. Although four positions will remain unfilled in Finance, the budget manager position will be as it is critical (for one) in providing separation of duties in reviewing transactions which has been a state auditor concern. The current budget manager will move up to the assistant finance director position. Budget manager pays from 37,000 to $45,476 based on experience.

Council members discussed with the fire department a fee charged  for accident response. Rader said it's normally $400 for non-residents and has not been altered since the 1990s. The amount go upward for an event that requires lengthy response. Insurers normally pay the fee, Rader said.

Vence inquired about police, fire and EMS response to OD's.

Rader explained that "normally we send an engine out to overdose calls. 50% of the time we arrive first... [and] minutes save lives."

Firefighters are trained in CPR , basic live saving and use or narcam.

Although official OD response totals to date for 2017 have not yet been released, the number went from 774 (2015) to 1,223 (2016).

Mayor Williams explained the fentenyl laced heroin which arrived in July/Aug 2016 has sent totals upward.

"It's hard to get in front of this," Rader said.

Fentenyl is 100 times more powerful that heroin.

Williams indicated that the 2017 projection for OD response is 988.

Although the budget , if approved, will be forward to the state auditor, it remains subject to budget revisions.

Public comment will be taken at the March 27 city council meeting.

 

 

 

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