Commissioners to finalize budget Monday

PARKERSBURG -Wood County commissioners expect to finalize the county’s new $20,153,719 budget on Monday.

County officials said the budget will be presented and ratified at that time. It’s due in Charleston by March 28 for state review. Last year’s total budget was $19,424,443.

After days of special sessions, meetings with department heads and county officials on budget requests, commissioners said the budget really isn’t much different than last year, at least as far as discretionary spending is concerned. Most increases within the budgets are accounted for by health insurance costs going up or other mandatory changes in benefit costs.

“There was not much we could do when you’ve got about the same amount of money to work with as last year,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

No employee pay raises have been built into the budget this year. The commission can still review its carryover options later to see if funds are available to give pay hikes at that time.

Coal severance revenues are down, from $158,000 to $145,000.

Video lottery income was up. Some of those funds will be transferred to contingencies, officials said. Contingencies was $271,798 last year and is $310,787 for the new year.

Funding for elections was increased. The county will have a regular primary election in May, the general election will be in the next fiscal year, additional funding was put in the budget to cover expenses for a special election, which is anticipated for the Wood County Board of Education to seek renewal of the current levy. County officials said the issue could not go on the regular May primary election because that would make it too late to go on 2014 tax tickets, if the measure is approved by voters. Officials said the issue would have be passed in February 2014 to be on the July 2014 tax tickets.

County Clerk Jamie Six said the board would have to reimburse the county for expenses related to any special election they would request.

Hotel tax revenue was up, from $526,188 last year to $671,376 this year. Hotel/motel tax revenues are earmarked under state requirements. At least 50 percent of the funds must go to the convention/visitor’s bureau or its equivalent tourism agency, the remainder is to be used for recreation and related activities within the county.

The budget contains no increase for the humane society either, but commissioners noted the current contract does not expire until June 30.

Noting a rise in health care, utility and medication costs, the agency earlier asked for a 10 percent increase in service fees in the 2013-2014 contract with the county. The county is currently paying $271,344 annually for animal control services. Part of the funds to pay for the services come from dog license fees collected by the county, the rest is paid out of the county general fund.

The cities of Vienna and Williamstown have their own contracts for service with the humane society. The county’s contract includes the city of Parkersburg. Previously the city had its own contract and the county only covered the unincorporated areas. When the city announced it would no longer contract with the society for services, the county asked the society to take over coverage of the city as well, with the county footing the entire bill.

The commissioners said they will turn over the budget to the clerk’s finance department to be put into state format and if there are problems they may meet briefly in session today to address the issues, then the finalized document would be presented and signed on Monday.