Municipal employees in Wheeling provide good services to city residents, sometimes under trying conditions. Now it seems city government may be able to provide some help for the workers, in the form of 2 percent raises.
City Manager Robert Herron has reported municipal government ended the fiscal year on June 30 with a $1.01 million cash balance. That, combined with end-of-year balances for several years previously, indicates raises may be feasible.
When government has money in the bank at the conclusion of fiscal years, taxpayers often hear the word "surplus." But as Herron, who prefers the term "cash balance," is aware, that is misleading. Whatever the term used to describe them, cash balances do not necessarily indicate excess cash to be used however government officials prefer.
Herron's treatment of the subject is among many ways in which he demonstrates a conservative approach to city finances. It has served city government and Wheeling residents well.
That brings us to suggestions city employees should receive raises higher than those discussed this week. "Two percent is not a whole heck of a lot of a raise," City Councilman Don Atkinson noted Tuesday. "I am just trying to help them out," he said of municipal employees.
It is true that the $260,000 a year needed to fund 2 percent raises seems small in comparison to the $1.01 million cash balance. But as several city officials stressed Tuesday, this year's balance is a one-time event that may not occur again in the future. The $260,000 for raises will be a part of the city budget every year.
"You've got to be careful in what you are promising in future deals," Vice Mayor Gene Fahey said in cautioning against a commitment that could strain municipal finances in the future.
He's right. As Mayor Andy McKenzie pointed out, it may be possible for the city to provide additional money for employees, perhaps in the form of a one-time payment, in the future.
But for now, holding the raise to 2 percent is the prudent thing to do, as council's Finance Committee has suggested. Council should go along with that recommendation.