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Saving Cash For Use Later

It appears Wheeling’s municipal budget is doing well, despite loss of some revenue that had been built into the spending plan. Like local and state governments throughout the country, Wheeling has suffered from the economic slowdown linked to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Wheeling has received $3 million in federal funding through the state, to help cover costs related to the epidemic. It appears that has more than offset concerns at the end of the last fiscal year, on June 30.

In order to ensure that year’s budget remained balanced, city officials had to dip into their budget stabilization fund, an account set aside for just such emergencies.

But as we reported, the $3 million in federal assistance has helped — a lot. City Manager Robert Herron told our reporter that $1 million of the amount went into the budget stabilization fund, taking it up to a $2.376 million balance. At this time last year, the fund held $1.3 million.

Another million dollars went into the city’s general fund, which also contains more than it did at this time last year.

Finally, $1 million of the federal funding was put into the city’s “project fund.” That money is set aside to cover special expenses outside the normal operating budget.

City officials should sit on that $1 million. They also should be grateful the stabilization fund is healthier than normal.

Infectious disease experts say the epidemic is far from over. In fact, some warn states may have to renew steps taken earlier this year against the disease. That could include a new round of restrictions on businesses.

In turn, that could affect local and state government revenues adversely.

It will be tempting for officials to use that $1 million in “found money” that now rests in the project fund. There are many ways to put it to good use. But the possibility of another round of revenue losses linked to the epidemic dictates limits on spending to ensure that, if needed, Wheeling has the funds to get through another round with COVID-19.

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