Wheeling Council: No More Talk Needed on $35M Budget

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron speaks during Tuesday’s city council meeting. Photo by Casey Junkins

WHEELING — City firefighter Mike Haney said higher wages as part of Wheeling’s new $35 million budget would help offset a 5-percent hike in health care costs, but he’s confident he and his co-workers will see a pay raise eventually.

“It’s the same thing every year. We’ll be looking for a raise with the cash carryover in July,” Haney, who serves as secretary of Wheeling International Association of Firefighters Local No. 12, said.

“They usually find us some money in July,” he added.

On Tuesday, Wheeling City Council reviewed City Manager Robert Herron’s 2018-19 budget plan, which calls for spending precisely $34,949,392.This reflects an increase of $455,136 from the current fiscal year.

Typically, the city’s firefighters, police officers, street department workers and other employees do not receive pay increases as part of the budget. In July, council used cash carryover money to fund a 2.5-percent pay raise. This was in addition to the 3 percent raise they approved in July 2016.

“It would be our intent to give them a raise that is consistent with what they have received in prior years,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said of employees.

“At this point, we believe we should be able to do that.”

City leaders plan to spend about $1,275 for each of Wheeling’s 27,375 residents in fiscal year 2018-19.

The city’s main source of revenue continues to be the business and occupation tax. According to the budget projection, Herron expects receipts to increase slightly for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“It’s an unpopular tax — not that any tax is really popular,” Elliott said of the B&O.

Wheeling charges anywhere from 15 cents per $100 to $2 per $100 via the B&O tax, depending on the specific activity. The manufacturing rate is 28 cents, while the rate for banking is 94 cents. Contracting is the highest charge at $2.

“We are very dependent on the B&O tax,” Herron acknowledged.

The municipal sales tax continues to grow as part of the budget, as the city expects to generate $3.6 million from this tax in fiscal 2019. The city anticipates receiving $1.92 million from sanitation collection fees, while receipts from fire protection fees are expected at just over $2 million.

“These numbers are our best estimates,” Herron said. “We can control expenses, but we have to make sure we get the revenues right.”

In terms of expenses, the city intends to pay $10.4 million for fire department services this year, along with $8.3 million for the police department. Wheeling is allocating $4.53 million for streets and highways, and amount that does not include general street paving. This also typically comes from the cash carryover in July.

Herron said he expects council to approve the budget by resolution at the next regular meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. March 20 on the first floor of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.