Flat Budget Won’t Sustain Exceptional City Concept

Updated 27 weeks ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor

The flat bare bone City of Huntington budget proposed by the Williams Administration which contains 3% pay increases for all employees but the Mayor and Council members will not sustain the progress toward exceptional city status, the Mayor revealed during the Thursday, March 6 budget hearing.

“We asked (each department) to present a flat budget and a budget required to move forward,” Williams said. In the case of the Huntington Police Department (HPD) , their budget shows a $500,000 increase for previously authorized  adjustments such as moving code and compliance to the police department.

However, Chief Skip Holbrook warned that the grant coffers are running dry. The department lost two important ones last year because the decision makers did not believe the city could sustain the programs once the grant ended.

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and Home grants will again decline. Charles Holley, executive director of development and planning, revealed the city’s  “entitlement” will drop 7.59 and 6% respectively. The amounts announced by President Obama bring CDBG grants to “below $1.5 million and HOME below $500,000,” Holley told council members.

Federal fund tightening has resulted in a 50% cut in these programs over the last years, Holley said.

Faced with unfunded HPD critical needs, both councilmen Gary Bunn and Scott Caserta explored the difficult additional revenue question.

Bunn asked if a Police and/or Infrastructure Fee(s) were possible statutorily. Mayor Williams nodded yes, but noted that the user fee funds police and paving and the Municipal Service fee pays for fire and floodwall.

“There are fee options,” Williams said. “It would be a last resort. It’s not something we want to do. But we want to make sure our streets are safe , passable, and provide services expected.  We have a (good) track record. We collect what is owed and we are good stewards. We have decisions to make sooner rather than later,” the Mayor explained.

Vice council chairman Scott Caserta responding to police critical needs for community policing and vehicles, said, “Nobody want to (raise) fees. I’ve voted for them before. We’ve needed to put tools in the toolbox. It’s an investment in our future. We can’t stop the progress. I don’t want to slow down.”

Budget hearings continue Saturday morning, March 8.

 

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