The city of Beckley has a pie in the oven — and everyone wants a slice.

The problem is satisfying some hungry mouths when the city doesn’t exactly have Martha Stewart’s stock of baking supplies.

Mayor Emmett Pugh, Recorder/Treasurer Gary Sutphin and members of Beckley Common Council met Thursday to start hammering out the next city budget, which will be on the agenda at the next council meeting March 14. Sutphin provided each city department’s projected expenses for the coming year and the city’s expected revenues.

The budget, once passed, will be sent to the state for approval, Pugh said. Once approved, it will go into effect July 1 and end June 30, 2007.

The city’s expected revenues by June 30, 2007, according to Sutphin’s estimates, are $12,861,297. At this point, with the expected expenses from each department, the budget has about a $600,000 shortfall, Pugh said. However, that is not uncommon, and he noted the city’s department heads almost always spend less than what is in the budget. They must.

“If you spend the budget, you’re broke,” he said.

Pugh and other city officials are crunching the numbers, trying to work in other items they believe are needed.

Right now, Pugh wants to find a way to give city employees a pay raise. While he believes the city gives the employees a good benefits and retirement package, he wants the city to pay the employees their worth.

“Our employees do a good job and we want to reward them,” he said.

Pugh said other items that need consideration include new police vehicles and body armor, a new apparatus for the fire department and items in the information technology department.

The city is expecting several large increases in costs already. Health insurance costs, Pugh noted, continue to rise, and he expects the city to see at least an 8 percent increase.

Councilman Howard Mollohan also noted the city has several “unfunded mandates” that cannot be cut from the budget. Pugh said a federal mandate regarding stormwater treatment is one of those.

The police department, according to the worksheets, is the most expensive to run — with a projected expense of $3,799,250. However, Sutphin noted Police Chief Billy Cole is a fiscally responsible department head, one who will always save money if he can.

“Just because something is in the budget doesn’t mean he will spend it,” Sutphin said.

The police department expects maintenance and repairs to buildings and grounds, equipment and automobiles to cost about $125,000, according to the budget worksheets. Repair costs are up substantially, Sutphin said. However, the city is sometimes reimbursed for repair costs. If police vehicles are involved in wrecks, those repairs are covered by insurance.

Besides the $600,000 shortfall, four departments — the fire department, police department, Board of Public Works and the Information Technology Department — have also submitted additional funding requests.

Some of the requests include Cole’s request for 10 new police vehicles, which would cost $240,000, and 15 bulletproof vests, which would cost $6,825. The vests would replace body armor being worn by officers which is damaged or expired. Cole noted on that request the police department will be applying for the U.S. Department of Justice Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant in hopes of reimbursing the city for half the cost.

Fire Department Chief Kevin Taylor has requested five replacement vehicles. Of these vehicles he would like to see replaced, one is 43 years old, another is 29 and another is 22.

Pugh noted several items departments are requesting, particularly vehicles, can be purchased on leases. This way, expenses do not hit the city at once.

While the city will consider these, giving everyone everything they request is going to be impossible, according to Pugh.

“You can never fund everything to what everyone wants,” he said.

— E-mail:

apridemore@register-herald.com



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