Parkersburg City Council reviews city budget

PARKERSBURG – Council members and city officials reviewed Parkersburg’s proposed 2013-14 budget Tuesday evening during a three-hour budget hearing.

The nearly $26.3 million budget is an increase of about $525,000 from the previous year, but Mayor Bob Newell said it contains few new expenditures.

Newell began Tuesday’s hearing reviewing the city’s revenue streams, departments and expenditures.

The proposed budget contains $765,000 in pay increases due to reclassifications and raises. Newell said those increases are being paid for with existing funds saved through attrition and elimination of positions and reduction of the city’s debt service.

Newell told council members while he anticipates the city’s user fee will be a topic during the budget review, he warned losing the nearly $2.3 million in revenue would lead to a loss of both personnel and services.

During the review, Councilman John Kelly questioned what he called “underestimated” revenue numbers, saying they did not accurately reflect money coming in to the city. Newell disagreed, saying the conservative estimates helped keep the city from anticipating non-existent revenues.

“We can project the revenue high and hope to God it comes in that way,” Newell said. “We don’t operate that way.”

Kelly pointed to the city’s $1.4 million carryover fund.

“I don’t believe a $1.4 million carryover is where we ought to be,” he said. “I think we need to hold the numbers a little tighter than that.”

Newell said that carryover is necessary to operate the city during the first quarter, before revenues begin to come in to the city.

“On July 1, we do not really have $26 million to spend,” he said. “That fund is to carry us over during the first quarter.”

Kelly also questioned the purchase of four SUVs by the police department, saying he would favor more cruisers instead.

“I would like to decrease the number of 4-wheel-drive vehicles in the city,” he said, citing the cost to purchase, fuel and maintain the large vehicles.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin said the vehicles would allow the department to cycle three existing SUVs into another department. Those vehicles have 80,000-110,000 miles.

Martin said while he could use more cruisers, the SUVs have additional uses, such as surveillance and taking officers to training.

“There is a need for those types of vehicles,” he said.

Newell said the heavier vehicles were first purchased by the city for emergency response during inclement weather.

Kelly requested a price comparison between the SUVs and cruisers.

Council will meet again Tuesday in regular session.