MOUNDSVILLE - Rather than cut services, city leaders may increase fees for garbage collection, street paving and public safety to help fill a projected $250,138 hole in the fiscal 2015 municipal budget.
Even though the city has until March 28 to finalize the projected $6.79 million spending plan for the fiscal year that will begin July 1, Moundsville officials plan to vote on final passage during the regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 18 at the Municipal Building at 800 Sixth St.
After meeting for approximately one hour during a Tuesday budget workshop, Mayor Eugene Saunders, city council members, City Manager Deanna Hess and Kathryn Goddard, a certified public accountant working for the city, decided to hold another open session to discuss the budget at 5 p.m. Friday at the city building.
Photo by Casey Junkins\Moundsville Mayor Eugene Saunders officiates a Tuesday workshop with city officials discussing the 2015 fiscal year municipal budget.
"I look at this as a citizen. Can the person on a fixed income afford this?" Councilwoman Ginger DeWitt said Tuesday, while discussing one of the numerous fee increase scenarios Goddard presented to council.
"If you want your services, they are not free," Goddard said. "Raising anything is unpopular."
The projected shortfall comes as the city plans to increase spending by nearly $390,000 from the $6.4 million budget it approved at this time last year. Budget documents show one of the primary reasons for more spending is an increase in employee insurance costs.
Last year, council approved a 4-percent pay increase for employees, but Hess said the projected new budget, as it stands, does not include raises for any of the approximately 77 city workers. This does not sit well with Councilman David Haynes.
"They are out there at 5 a.m. in below-zero weather," he said of the city's garbage collection workers.
Saunders said it is getting harder for the city to keep quality employees because they can receive better pay in the private sector.
"You are in competition with the gas industry, with the coal mines. You have to make it competitive to keep these people," he said.
According to the latest population estimate from the Census Bureau, Moundsville is home to 9,173 people. Councilman K. Mark Simms said this is one of the main problems with maintaining employees and increasing their pay.
"How do we answer the citizen who comes up to us and says, 'this city used to have 14,000 people. Now, we are under 10,000, but you still have all these people,'" he said.
As projected, the police department will be the single largest line item in the budget, as Moundsville expects to spend about $1.57 million to defend its streets in fiscal year 2015. This reflects a $56,000 increase from the amount it is spending in fiscal year 2014.