Buckhannon Council begins budget discussions

The Buckhannon City Council met in special session Thursday to begin discussions regarding the city’s general fund budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The general fund budget includes Stockart Youth Center, the police and fire departments and streets.

Mayor Kenneth Davidson, Treasurer/City Administrator Micheal Doss, Councilman Ron Pugh and Recorder Rich Clemens were in attendance with Councilman Dave Thomas participating via telephone.

Councilman Scott Preston was not in attendance, but requested by letter that a contribution of $5,000 be made to the Upshur County Senior Center for its senior transportation system. Doss said that Country Roads Transit currently receives $5,000 in city contributions, and in the fiscal years of 2009 and 2010, the city had contributed $10,000.

Officials agreed that it had been many years since the city last contributed to the senior center for transportation. The senior center’s transportation service is exclusive to senior citizens, while Country Roads Transit will transport a wider range of ages, including seniors.

Preston said in his letter than he believes the senior center will face a 7.5 percent cut in state funds, which are expected in July, and an 8.5 percent federal funding cut in September. He said that the original contribution of $10,000 could be equally split between both transportation programs. Another option would be to increase support to $7,500 and split those funds equally. Other options include leaving the funding amount alone, but dividing it equally between the two entities, or give total support to the senior center.

“I’m for increasing it back to $10,000,” Davidson said, adding that Country Roads Transit is still a valuable service to the community, even if it doesn’t focus primarily on seniors.

Clemens said more research would be needed to better understand the needs of the senior center.

On an economic topic, Davidson said the Development Authority is looking at an opportunity to sell the business center, and already has a good offer. He said they may need a “boost” in operational funding for a short period of time to help manage the business center and possibly a couple of other facilities that could be similarly managed.

“I think we need to be ready to support economic development,” Davidson said.

Doss said he added additional monies in the amount of $25,000 for economic development, and the city currently provides $15,000. He is requesting the city place the additional $25,000 into economic development funds to assist with critical needs in generating and enhancing revenues for Buckhannon.

To clarify the intent, Davidson said, “I don’t intend to ask you to allocate $40,000 to the Development Authority. We would allocate our $15,000.”

Doss added, “We would have our additional $25,000 for economic development.”

Davidson said the additional money would be for a variety of things that could be done in that area.

“There are a number of other things that we can legitimately spend funds for economic development,” Davidson said.

Doss later added, “If we do not grow, we die.”