Council Approves Final Fiscal Year Budget Revision

Updated 22 weeks ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor

Huntington City Council has approved the final fiscal 2017 budget revision which permits the city to finish the year in the black, after facing a catastrophic $5 million dollar shortfall.

However, bad feelings linger from cuts made to the police and fire department.

One revision included an increase to the Mayor's Office which covers a $48,000 payout for Jim Johnson, Mayor's Office of Drug Control Policy. Described as similar to one made to former police chief Skip Holbrook, Johnson qualifies by age and years of service. Prior to the Office of Drug Control Policy , he was Constituent Services Liaison under the Wolfe administration and briefly served as interim police chief. 

He has a total of 29 years service to the city, including a portion as jail administrator. The amount includes FICA tax. Johnson's current salary is covered through grant funding. 

Former Mayoral candidate Steve Davis challenged this appropriation and the others  should be funneled back into the ranks of the police and fire departments. He wrote on Facebook that "maybe all of us can get paid to leave..." 

Scott Caserta , the then council chair that challenged the Holbrook payout as illegal, started a thread on Facebook questioning the Johnson payout. Former Mayor Kim Wolfe suggested to HNN that likely Mayor Steve Williams thoroughly checked the legality of this payout decision. 

(Editor's Note: Williams relied on the advice of City Attorney Scott Damron regarding the Holbrook payout. Council removed Caserta from the chair position for disrespecting council by not letting them know ahead of time that he turned the statutory matter over to the prosecutor's office. )

Responders to Caserta's assertion did not answer a question of whether Johnson rightfully qualified for the bonus; however, they did challenge the assertion that the city would finish the year "in the black."

 D.K.B. remarked, "There is no way city was millions in the red and now coming out in the black. Sounds to me like some people doesn't know how to do the math! It's terrible that they can give that big of a pay out but yet retired firefighters are being threatened to lose some of their pension, not to mention the pitiful insurance... Number 1 station was working with 2 firefighters Sunday when there should've been nine, but I guess that is ok. Let's put our firefighters lives in danger so we can give FREE needles and narcan to someone who , are the choice to OD."

(In an unrelated post, a woman complained that a man OD'ed in her yard, received an injection, then was let go on a summons.)

One retiree disputed finishing ahead when pensions remain million behind and the 'unfunded' portion. 

As or the remainder of the budget revision increases, they are:

Police Judge's Office $6,500

Traffic Engineering $8,000

Convention and Visitor's Bureau $97, 393 (based on greater income from Hotel/motel tax)

Other Buildings $35,000

The increases for other buildings and traffic engineer includes funds to pay for the stormwater fee.

The Municipal Court fee was also increased.

Council approved emergency funds for six condenser fan repairs to the Jean Dean Building. 

 

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