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City of Wheeling Revenue Strong Halfway Through Fiscal Year

Photo by Joselyn King Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron, left, and Mayor Glenn Elliott await the start of the Jan. 5 council meeting.

Finances in the city of Wheeling remain strong at the halfway point of the current fiscal year, and areas of cash flow that had been weakened due to the COVID-19 pandemic are making a noticeable comeback.

This week, members of the Finance Committee of Wheeling City Council met to review the city’s December 2021 financial statement. The current fiscal year runs from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. The Wheeling Finance Department recently compiled monthly figures from various revenue and expenditure line items from last month for the December report.

“From an expenditure perspective, we’re right at 50%,” City Manager Robert Herron said, “and on the revenue side, we’re at 53% of the budget. We’re a little bit ahead on revenues, and our cash balances are strong.”

City leaders noted that Wheeling will receive the second of two installments that will total nearly $29.5 million in federal pandemic relief money through the American Rescue Plan in the coming months. Officials plan to hold meetings to discuss the best ways to distribute or spend those relief funds, which come with specific parameters for usage.

Meanwhile, the city still has some of the pandemic relief funds it received as reimbursements through the CARES Act in 2020. A good chunk of those funds were transferred to the city’s municipal budget stabilization fund to help bolster the city’s fiscal safety net. Still, the city’s finances have remained solid through the pandemic and halfway through the current fiscal year.

“Our general fund cash balance at the six-month mark was $5 million in the municipal budget stabilization fund, and the city has $1,736,000 in the cash reserve,” Herron noted, making comparisons to previous general fund cash balances at the halfway point during previous fiscal years. “That compares to almost $1.2 million last year, the year before that $1.3 million and the year before that $1.6 million. So we’re ahead of the previous three fiscal years at this point in the current fiscal year at the six-month mark.”

Although the city has remained in the black throughout the pandemic, COVID-related economic challenges have affected a number of revenue streams in the city.

“Obviously, we’re going into year two of working around COVID,” Councilman Ty Thorngate, a member of the finance committee, said to the city manager during this week’s meeting. “Are you seeing anything where we still have areas that are struggling to catch up in terms of revenues or expenses, or are we kind of caught back up to where we were pre-pandemic levels?”

Herron noted that not every line item has bounced back to normal, but all of the revenue streams that raised concerns at points during the past two years have shown great improvements.

“For example, the video lottery at the track, which was one of the areas that was hit by COVID, is actually $20,000 ahead of the same time last year,” Herron said. “Table gaming at the casino is $72,000 ahead of the same time last year.”

In addition to returning revenues from the Wheeling Island Hotel Racetrack and Casino, Herron said a number of revenue streams from other sources in the city are also flowing.

“Parking meter revenue is coming back, the B&O taxes have been strong and the bed tax is $186,000 ahead of the same time last year,” he said.

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