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From the mayor’s desk

April 21, 2012
By Mayor Duke Talbott , The Inter-Mountain

On April 17, Elkins City Council gave final approval to the city's general revenue budget for the July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, fiscal year. The budget was the result of a long process of information gathering and discussion to devise the most effective and economically pragmatic allocation of tax resources to meet the needs of the citizens in the coming year.

The process began in January when supervisors and department heads brought together the yearlong review of their current spending requirements to define their anticipated needs for the coming year. The city's administrative officers then compiled their recommendations into proposals to present to the Finance Committee, chaired by Councilman Bob Woolwine with committee members Councilman Tom Hensil and Councilwoman Marilynn Cuonzo.

The Finance Committee members reviewed proposals with the mayor and the five administrative officers who compose the management team. These officers are City Clerk Sutton Stokes, Treasurer Lisa Daniels-Smith, Operations Manager Bob Pingley, Police Chief H.R. White and Fire Chief Tom Meader. After review and recommendations, the Finance Committee tentatively allocated sums for the various line items.

Meanwhile, Daniels-Smith, who is responsible for monitoring financial administration, addressed other items including salaries and associated fringe benefits, and the calculation of a formula for indirect costs (that is, costs not easily allocated to any particular administrative unit). This was the first time that the allocation for indirect costs was accomplished by using a working formula that addresses the component parts of how the costs were calculated.

With council's passage of the Administrative Restructuring Plan on May 5, financial oversight was removed from the city clerk's office and placed in the treasurer's office - a requirement of City Code that had not previously been complied with.

Thanks to the initiative of the treasurer in analyzing and reviewing these costs in consultation with the mayor, the city now has a consistent formula which can be used in future years. This action will make it possible to compare data from year to year and otherwise brings the computation of these costs into compliance with standard accounting practices.

In addition to presentations by administrative officers to the Finance Committee, the various external agencies funded by the city presented analyses of their accomplishments to date, previous appropriations and projected activities and funding needs for the coming year. All of these agencies have a significant positive effect on the quality of life in Elkins. Consequently, it is always difficult deciding how best to allocate the city's limited budget for outside contributions. I am particularly pleased that we were able to provide full funding for the request by the ON-TRAC/Main Street Program for expanded improvements to the downtown area.

Additionally, the streamlining associated with the Administrative Restructuring Plan passed last May resulted in some significant savings in the coming fiscal year. Due to reorganization of duties, the city clerk's budget was reduced from an original 2011 appropriation of $207,813 to $36,708 in the 2013 year. Some of the clerk's former functions were added to the treasurer's office, but the net effect was to reduce the combined budgets for these two departments from $375,874 to $284,222, a net savings of $91,652.

This streamlining, along with other cost-saving measures, made it possible to provide a 55 cent-an-hour pay raise to most city employees (with fringe benefits, this amounted to a 69 cent-per-hour cost to the city). For many, this was the first pay raise in more than four years.

The balanced budget which resulted from this process (a process which reflects modern management principals) in no way draws down from the city's past savings. However, it allows monies to be put into a "rainy day" fund to meet future requirements.

The budget as prepared was presented to council on March 26 and submitted to the State Auditor's Office for review. On March 30, the city received formal notice of approval from the State Auditor's Office in Charleston, and Council officially adopted this budget on Tuesday.

I would like to thank all of the many people who contributed so significantly to the preparation of the budget. I would especially like to thank Woolwine and Daniels-Smith for their leadership roles in directing the budget process, as well as the administrative officers who performed such a critical service. It is the first time in recent memory that the budget was formulated in a cooperative, consensus-building process that reflected the needs of the entire city.



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