Budget Nearly $13M for 2015

Ohio County’s budget is nearly $13 million for fiscal year 2015, representing an increase of more than $600,000 over 2014 figures.

County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a budget of $12,994,888 for next year – up $609,674 over this year’s budget of $12,385,214.

The proposed 2015 spending budget is equal to expected revenues in 2015, and County Administrator Greg Stewart attributed the additional money available for spending to increasing funds generated through property taxes and the county’s hotel/motel tax. Ohio County property tax collections for fiscal year 2015 are anticipated to be $5,760,462 in 2015, an increase of $523,889 over this year’s expected figure of $5,236,573.

Revenue from the hotel/motel tax, meanwhile, is expected to double to $500,000 in 2015 from $250,000 this year.

But as revenue increases, so does expected spending, according to Stewart.

The county assumed operations of the Ohio County 911 system Jan. 1, and anticipates spending an additional $398,500 at the communications center for fiscal year 2015.

The increase in hotel/motel tax collections enables the county to increase the allocation for fairs and festivals from $150,000 this year to $250,000, with the same amount and increase being directed to the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The county prosecutor’s office will receive $1,072,400 in 2015, $33,900 more than the 2014 allocation of 1,038,500. Prosecutor Scott Smith had requested funds for a new computer system in his office during budget discussions with the commissioners.

The county also expects to pay $597,455 to the Ohio County Library in 2015, representing an increase of $54,336 over the $543,199 line item in 2014.

Commissioners decreased their own budget for next year by $71,500, as one position in the office has been eliminated, Stewart said. The commission office expects spending to be $618,000 in 2015, down from $689,500 in 2015.

Money for the Northern Regional Jail also was decreased by $150,000. The jail’s allocation for 2014 was $900,000, and for 2015 it is $750,000.

Also at Tuesday’s commission meeting, representatives from Mountaineer Boys State addressed the commission, asking if funds from the county’s hotel/motel tax collections could be used to sponsor boys from Ohio County who attend Boys State at Jackson’s Mill. Mountaineer Boys State Director James W. Davis expects as many as 37 boys from Ohio County to participate this year.

John Nanny, who coordinates local Boys State efforts, said he previously approached commissioners about allocating hotel/motel tax revenue to Boys State, but was unsuccessful. Commissioners then told him the money only could be spent for events within Ohio County.

“Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, this program is a life-changing resource,” Nanny said. “These are our children – these are kids from Linsly, Wheeling Central and Wheeling Park. The money you put in, you will get the investment back.”

Commissioner Tim McCormick called Boys State “a superb program,” and directed County Solicitor Donald Tennant to research and see if money from the hotel/motel tax could be used to assist students who attend. Tennant’s own children have participated in both Boys State and Rhododendron Girls State. Tennant told the Boys State representatives he would personally fund two students this year at $100 each, and did so last year.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners voted to provide $1,000 in hotel/motel tax funds to the 2014 Relay for Life event in Ohio County, set for Aug. 8 at Oglebay Park.