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New Charleston budget shows increases

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is projected to increase by 3.7 percent, or around $3.14 million, City Finance Director Joe Estep announced Tuesday.

Council members got their first look at budget projections for the upcoming fiscal year at Tuesday's meeting. Estep announced that the budget should increase from $84.1 million during this fiscal year to $87.3 million.

An increase in business and occupation tax will make up the majority of new revenue, Estep said.

He anticipates the B&O revenue to increase by about $2.7 million over the $41.2 million budgeted for the current fiscal year.

"The business and occupation tax numbers continue to show strong growth," Estep said.

In fact, the city has received $2 million more in B&O this fiscal year than it did during the same months last fiscal year, he said.

"Our B&O numbers have been consistently strong all year long," Estep said. "And that indicates people are spending more money."

However, Estep also projects the city will see an increase in expenditures. In fact the increased expenses will eat up more than the increase in B&O revenue, he said.

Increased expenditures include $3.8 million in "personal services." This will include $2.1 million in health care costs and $1.1 million for raises for city employees granted in October.

"But we have no 3 percent across-the-board raises built into next year's budget," City Manager David Molgaard said.

The city is also reducing the amount of money spent on capital outlay by $1.2 million in the upcoming fiscal year, Molgaard said.

During the upcoming fiscal year, the city will not have to purchase numerous pieces of equipment that were already obtained during the current fiscal year, he said.

Revenue from hotel/motel tax is also projected to increase from $2.7 million budgeted for the current fiscal year to $3.6 million.

Property tax revenues are also projected to increase by $596,000, from $12.4 million to around $13 million.

The budget must be presented to the state auditor's office no later than March 28, Estep said.

Molgaard hopes to have budget hearings to address council members' questions by the first meeting in March, he said.

Council also approved a contract with TRC Engineers Inc. for designs of a two-lane bike path next to Kanawha Boulevard. The contract will not exceed $280,000.

The Charleston-based firm was one of four interviewed for the project. The company was selected because of its vision, Molgaard said during a previous interview.

TRC was the only firm to propose a bike path with a green buffer between it and the boulevard, Molgaard said.

The path would extend from Magic Island to Patrick Street.

The plan is to make all four lanes of Kanawha Boulevard narrower and eliminate the grass median to make room for the bike path.

Council also approved the Sanitary Board's request to issue bonds not to exceed $11.6 million for sewer line upgrades in South Ruffner Road/Lick Branch area.

The cost was included in the last sewage rate increase, said Larry Roller, Sanitary Board director. The funds to pay the debt service on the bonds will come from revenue generated by sewage bills, he said.

He hopes to have the bonds issued by the end of March and the project under way by April 1. A public hearing will be held at the March 4 city council meeting. 

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.

 


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