Herron To Suggest Spending Reductions

WHEELING – City Manager Robert Herron said he will recommend a series of cost-cutting measures and business and occupation tax reductions to City Council during a special meeting June 30.

Herron said Tuesday his recommendations, the result of a three-month review of Wheeling’s operations and tax structure, “will reduce spending and provide a brighter budget picture for next year.” The meeting is tentatively scheduled for noon June 30 at the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

Earlier this year, City Council voted to delay planned B&O tax reductions, fearing that sluggish early collections from the city’s new sales tax could lead to a budget shortfall if the B&O relief took effect in April as scheduled. That led Mayor Andy McKenzie to direct Herron to complete a comprehensive review of city operations and come back with suggestions on how to cut costs and provide some type of B&O reduction by the end of June.

Although he declined to comment further on potential recommendations Tuesday, Herron’s comments during a March budget work session may hint at what’s ahead.

“I can provide you recommendations and it will be dramatic,” Herron said during that meeting. “You’ve got to be prepared for that.”

During that meeting, McKenzie said it’s time to review employment in the city, which has about 390 workers. He didn’t call for outright layoffs, but said there may be some positions the city can afford not to fill the next time they become vacant.

Sales tax collections have improved steadily over the months since McKenzie’s request.

“The April and May numbers are very good, and much better than what we had anticipated,” Herron said Tuesday.

Collections of $188,000 in April and $175,000 in May bring average monthly collections to about $166,000 since the sales tax took effect Oct. 1. That’s short of the city’s initial $200,000-per-month projection when officials proposed the sales tax, but stronger than the currently budgeted figure of $133,000 per month.

With about two weeks remaining in the fiscal year, Herron said the city is on track to end the year with a slight surplus.

“We’re going to be pretty close to where we were last year,” Herron predicted, referring to the city’s $255,000 cash carryover at the close of the 2012-13 fiscal year. Previous years had seen a carryover of $1 million or more.

In other business Tuesday, council approved a $365,000 contract with M&G Architects of Wheeling to design an estimated $4 million improvement project at WesBanco Arena. Planned renovations include an overhaul of the front entrance, new seating, addition of a center-mounted video board and upgrades to concession stands and restrooms.

The city plans to sell bonds backed by sales tax revenue to complete the project, which likely will last into next summer.

Council also approved more than $300,000 in expenses for water treatment, including $297,575 on chemicals and and $38,600 for Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal to replace a pump station roof.

City Council’s next meeting will be at noon July 1.