Budget Hearing: What About Capital Improvements? Should Parking Rates Inrease?

Updated 33 weeks ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Mayor Williams
Mayor Williams
File Photo

Addressing the first 2014-2015 budget hearing, Mayor Steve Williams told council members that "We have a flat budget in every department," and, we  had to "cut $4.5 million out of requests."  Still,  our city is "healthier and not on the verge of managing by financial crisis. Our services are better. There's a satisfaction with the level of services provided," adding that council has "given us the budget to properly staff."

Three challenges have been identified. Shoring up the bond for the Parking Board will require them to keep 100% of their revenue, assuming current rates are maintained. A larger category is capital improvement projects, i.e. infrastructure. Lastly, the city's "self insurance" represents significant risk.

On the parking board issue, councilman David Ball asked "how much has the cost of living gone up since the last parking rate" increase. Similarly, Gary Bunn inquired, "What's going on in the State of WV? "

Councilman Pete Gillespie question whether parking rate increases could discourage shopping in the city. However, Ball countered, "The garage at Pullman stays full."

Council chairman Mark Bates asked about expire parking ticket increases. Currently , the fee is $5 (if paid in seven days). Bates suggested $10.00.

Mayor Williams acknowledged that "after two unpaid tickets we boot." Finance Director Deron Runyon indicated he would "see what rates would be to make up the shortfall."  Williams indicated an increase in parking fees would be part of the on going debate.

However, the single most pressing policy concerns capital  improvement projects.

The administration has proposed that as construction business and occupation tax collections increase, the funds  be dedicated to capital improvement projects on a "pay as you go" basis.

"As additional construction occurs, it funds additional (city) construction," the mayor said. Currently, the city funds one million dollars for paving expenditures and $700,000 for debt service.

Construction B & O (CBO) receipts are the most "volatile" revenue item having ranged from as low as $1.3 million to a projected high of $4.5 million for 2015. The city has no control over the amount, even though the 2015 projection represents about 10% of the city's $45 million dollar budget.  Williams explained that the funds primarily come from construction projects at Marshall. "If MU is going to the level we expect, this should be the norm."

Councilman Gary Bunn applauded the CBO suggestion. "You will get capital improvement projects completed. That's the way to do it."

As for insurance issues, Williams stressed that with a 3% proposed pay increase for employees comes with stable health insurance premiums. Still, the city faces self-insured stop/loss issues. That's one of the reasons the city aggressively tackled the leaking marina. They faced insurance liability exposure.

 

 

 

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