Weirton council restarts budget discussions

WEIRTON – City officials met for another budget workshop Tuesday in the effort to resolve a projected $1.6 million shortfall in the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The meeting comes after numerous weeks of budget review committee meetings and talks. It was the first workshop to be held since City Council voted down the business and occupation tax option that was put on the table at the May 12 regular meeting.

Ward 1 Councilman Ronnie Jones, Ward 2 Councilman Chuck Wright, Ward 4 Councilman George Ash Sr., Ward 6 Councilman David Dalrymple and City Manager Valerie Means were absent from the meeting.

Mayor George Kondik explained that there will be another workshop at 6:30 a.m. May 28 to hear from and update the officials who were not able to attend Tuesday’s gathering.

Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh, Ward 5 Councilman George Gaughenbaugh and Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel all presented different scenarios using a variety of combinations of the business and occupation tax, the cable franchise fee, a potential sales tax and adjustments to the municipal service fee and police and fire service fees.

City Finance Director Tom Maher assisted the councilmen in tweaking their hypothetical scenarios so they could be sent to other members of council before the next workshop, where more combinations of options will be presented and discussed.

Marsh submitted four separate scenarios. Gaughenbaugh and Weigel each presented one. At least two of the hypothetical plans presented still failed to produce enough revenue to completely close the budget gap.

Weigel’s plan was a variation on one that council had previously turned down in favor of Dalrymple’s scenario, which was ultimately rejected at City Council’s meeting last week.

Marsh’s initial scenario was based on increasing the municipal service fee and police and fire service fees according to inflation and consumer price index.

“We should have been doing that all along: making inflation adjustments every few years,” Marsh said.

Maher will be working to refine council’s ideas for discussion at next week’s budget workshop.

“There is no pretty scenario. There’s nothing easy about it,” Weigel commented.

(Dalrymple can be contacted at sdalrymple@heraldstaronline.com)