Council Votes Down User Fee Increase

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Nate Randolph
Nate Randolph

Amidst assertions of political posturing from both the Wolfe Administration and Huntington City Council, the body voted 8-1 against the $2.00 user fee increase proposed by the administration for balancing the fiscal 2012-2013 budget. Nate Randolph, one of two councilmen not seeking reelection, voted to support the fee. Jim Ritter and Teresa Loudermilk were absent.

Acknowledging that the vote is non-binding, Randolph argued, “We don’t know the impact of turning it down. Even the maintaining of a basic level of services may require an increase.”

However, the full council prevailed on wanting to first see a budget without the $2.00 a week user fee increase. The administration proposed a budget (less grants) of $43,180,140. They will now prepare a $40,180,140 proposal  for council to evaluate.

As a result, the first council budget hearing scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25 has been postponed until Saturday, March 3 at 9 a.m.

Prior to the vote, Steve Anderson represented the only citizen to provide input: “We’re still getting less and paying more,” he complained.

His assertion may be correct. Even, Randolph postulated that down-sizing the budget means “cuts [to services],” which likely will lead council back to finding ways to “increase revenue.” 

Mayor Kim Wolfe has vowed that his administration does not want to go backwards. He maintained that position following the vote, noting that the two sides will eventually work together and find a solution.

“If you take a poll, no one is in favor of a fee increase. But, if you ask, does everyone want [us] to continue to reduce crime, to continue paving, to continue to see progress, everyone will say yes.  Once we get in to the inertia of [the budget process] , I think we will work through it.”

Asked whether election year politics entered into council’s actions, Wolfe said, “You’ll have to ask them.” As for himself as Mayor, “I make decisions on what benefits the community and what’s the right thing to do. The first priority of government is to protect citizens, persons, property and liberties. I think that’s what everybody wants to do. Tough decisions are not always easy decisions. My philosophy is do the right thing and politics will take care of itself.”

Wolfe refused to describe a possible fee increase as a dead issue, instead, he explained, the matter may receive reconsideration during the budgetary process.

“If they go back and see [it’s] the only possibility to not reduce service,”  Wolfe speculated that the matter in some form would return to the table.  “Council wants the same things I want and the citizens of Huntington want,“  Wolfe said.

He called “fair” council’s request that a budget be brought forward without the $2 a week user fee increase. “When reality sets in,” the Mayor said, “we will [then] discuss where revenues need to be raised.”

Still, the city must work with what tools the legislature has made available. While nearly everyone admits that the user fee is a regressive and unfair tax, at least, it does tax those who earn income.

Expressing his own disdain for the user-fee, Wolfe re-asserted that “the best alternative is the courts allow us to implement our  original tax reform package.”  Wolfe supports the litigation mired proposed one percent city occupation tax, which is the key revenue component of the reform. Huntington has already implemented a one percent city sales tax , reduced B & O taxes on retail and service, and eliminated the B & O on manufacturing.

Comments powered by Disqus