Committee moves Parkersburg budget forward

PARKERSBURG – Despite a divided vote, Parkersburg City Council’s Committee of the Whole Tuesday evening approved a balanced budget to continue on to the full council.

The committee voted 5-4 to send on the proposed 2013-14 budget after several amendments to reduce pay increases for city administrators failed to pass. Council members John Kelly, Roger Brown, J.R. Carpenter and Mike Reynolds voted against approval of the $26,333,861 budget.

The hearing began with amended revenue numbers submitted by Mayor Bob Newell and Finance Director Angie Smith. Smith said excess levy tax revenue came in at $1,486,106, about $13,000 more than previously budgeted. That additional revenue was put into the city’s mass transit budget line.

Likewise the city received $3,292,104 in property tax, about $64,000 more than previously budgeted. Those additional dollars were put into the city’s capital reserve fund.

Kelly was the only council member Tuesday to seek amendments to the budget, targeting two positions which were to receive raises.

Kelly called an $8,466 raise for the city’s personnel director “an unreasonable pay increase,” and moved to have that amount reduced by more than $7,000, which he suggested be placed into a holding fund. The move received support from Brown, who said he felt it should be stepped into place rather than given all at once.

Newell said the pay increase was to make the position in line with market price and was recommended and passed by the council’s personnel committee.

“This is a mixed direction for the city council, either you want to pay market price or you don’t,” Newell said. “If you are not going to use your own committees, why are we gathering up?”

Kelly argued the personnel director has fewer employees to supervise than any other department in the city. He also argued the position did not oversee hiring and firing in the city’s police or fire departments, yet the job came with higher pay than the fire or police chief.

Newell said all hiring and firing goes through the mayor’s office and the personnel director oversees benefits, insurance, drug testing and other areas for 250 full-time and 60 part-time employees.

“It is a big job,” he said.

Kelly’s amendment failed by a 3-6 vote.

Kelly then made a motion to withhold about $3,000 of the public works director’s $4,514 pay increase. The motion died for lack of a second.

After the meeting, Newell pointed out there were no pay raises included for the mayor or council in the proposed budget.

Kelly successfully argued for an increase in the Memorial Bridge demolition fund. The city had budgeted $125,000 for that fund, but Kelly argued the state recommended a contribution of $180,000, a $55,000 difference.

“We need to do this and be in line with what the state recommends,” Kelly said.

Newell said the city has in years past paid more than the recommended amount for demolition.

An amendment by Kelly to have the additional $55,000 for bridge demolition come from the city’s capital reserve fund failed by a 2-7 vote, but a subsequent amendment by Kelly to have the money come from the bridge’s maintenance fund instead passed.

“We will do just that much less in repairs,” Newell said.

Newell said there will be two more readings and a public hearing before the budget is sent on to the state.