Mayor: Gambling Funds Promised

WHEELING – Passing a bill reducing West Virginia cities’ and counties’ shares of gambling revenue – and Wheeling’s by about $250,000 alone – would amount to a breaking a promise made to local taxpayers, Mayor Andy McKenzie said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

McKenzie’s comments were in reference to bills pending in both houses of the Legislature that would keep more tax revenue at the state level from table gambling, limited video lottery and slot machines at West Virginia’s racetracks. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed the measure as a partial solution to close a $146 million gap in next year’s budget.

McKenzie said there is a cost to communities associated with legalized gambling,

“Voters went to the polls and approved various types of gambling, with the promise those dollars would come back to the local community,” he said.

Council must pass the city’s budget by March 18. The legislative session ends March 8, meaning the city could have as few as 10 days to react to any change in its share of gambling revenue.

City Manager Robert Herron said he’ll wait to learn more about the bill’s prospects for passage before building its effects into his revenue projections, but he said he will have contingency plans prepared for council’s consideration.

In other business, the meeting also saw council unanimously approve the Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority’s request to put a new excess levy on the May ballot that would generate 15 percent more revenue for the bus service starting in mid-2015.

Council also heard first reading of ordinances calling for the removal of stop signs at three intersections on Richland Avenue in Warwood, at North Fourth and North Sixth streets and Osage Lane. The city’s Traffic Commission recommended their removal after a neighborhood resident complained there were too many stop signs on that street.

Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge, who represents Warwood, said she has received more than 60 calls from constituents urging the signs be left in place.

“They do not want those stop signs removed,” Delbrugge said. “Of course, I will vote against it at the next council meeting.”

Council’s next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the City-County Building.