Elkins City Council voted Monday to approve a $4.2 million budget for the 2014 fiscal year that members said was achieved only through some serious cutting.
"We have a balanced budget, but to get to that we had to jump through some hoops," Councilman Bob Woolwine, the finance committee chairman, said.
He noted that the 2014 budget included an unencumbered fund balance of $93,445.52 which will be rolled over from the current budget.
"That's what we think we'll have at the end of this fiscal year," Woolwine said.
The budget also includes $110,000 from the city's capital reserve.
"We don't want to keep doing that," he said. "That's tapping into our savings."
City Treasurer Lisa Daniels-Smith, referring to the unencumbered fund balance and the capital reserve money, said, "We've already budgeted for expenses of $203,000 that we really don't have revenue coming in for. From this point forward, we need to take a step back and take a hard look at our finances and make sure that we are staying within the budget. We need to work on the deficit for next year."
Woolwine said to create the 2014 budget the city also took about $80,000 from the water fund to place into the general fund, due to bills the water department owes the city for disposing of materials from the water treatment plant and other services.
He said council also asked all the city's administrative officers to cut 10 percent from their budget requests this year. This was required because the city's revenues for the current fiscal year are down 18 percent from what was projected, Woolwine said.
"We had to be very careful about projecting revenues for next year," he said. "Very cautious, very conservative."
Woolwine also said that, "for the most part, there are no employee raises this year." He said the only exceptions were "small" raises for police and firefighters because those positions have salary structures.
Asked by councilmembers why property tax revenues were down this year, Daniels-Smith said she had called other cities and the state auditor's office about the issue.
"It seems to be a trend," she said. "The delinquency of them has increased."
Daniels-Smith said the city is receiving payments in several departments much more slowly than in the past. She said the water department routinely sent out 300 to 400 "first notices" to customers with overdue bills a few years ago. Now the department sends out 700 to 900 shutoff warning notices each month to customers.
"It's a sign of the times," Councilwoman Marilynn Cuonzo said.
Council approved the budget by a vote of nine to 0. Outgoing Councilman Charles Kinnison was not present at Monday's meeting.
In the upcoming budget, the city plans to receive in revenue and spend $4,226,997.52, down from the adopted 2013 figure of $4,385,351.04.
The total budget for the police department is $1,126,336.07 for 2014, up from the 2013 budget of $1,104,438.09.
The 2014 budget for the Elkins Volunteer Fire Department is $457,093, down from $472,108.45 in the current year.
Donations to the following agencies are included in the budget:
- The Elkins-Randolph County Airport Authority at $24,000, down $1,000 from the current budget;
- Country Roads Transportation at $14,000, down $1,000 from this year;
- The Randolph County Health Department at $12,000, down $3,000 from the 2013 budget;
- The Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission at $6,500, down $500 from this year;
- The Randolph County Development Authority at $12,000, the same as in the current budget;
- The Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce at $4,500, down $5,000 from this year;
- The Elkins Welcome Center at $9,450, up from $7,200 in the 2013 budget;
- The Randolph County Community Arts Center at $4,500, down $500 from this year;
- The Elkins Public Library at $20,000, the same as this year:
- and $13,000 for animal control, down from $17,000 this year.
Councilwoman Nanci Bross-Fregonara said before the budget vote that she hoped "next year we really re-evaluate the funds that we give to County Roads Transportation as opposed to the airport. I think there's a real need to support the public transportation next year."
The Randolph County Convention and Visitor's Bureau will be given 50 percent of the city's hotel/motel tax, as required by state law. The city estimates the funding will be $58,050 in 2014, down from $67,500 in the current budget.