Elkins approves $4 million budget

ELKINS – Elkins City Council unanimously approved a $4 million budget for the coming fiscal year Wednesday, with officials noting that allocations to outside entities have been cut back significantly.

The city’s projected revenue is $4,161,588, down from $4.386,689 in the current budget. Council members said the cuts in allocations were needed to make up for the decrease in revenue.

Councilman Bob Woolwine, chairman of the Finance Committee, distributed a spreadsheet to council members showing disbursements to outside entities total $393,958. Woolwine said the city received nearly $500,000 in requests.

“We went through each request and cut them all, but it was not a set percentage on each line,” Woolwine said.

Allocations included $20,000 to the Elkins-Randolph County Airport Authority, down $4,000 from the current budget; $11,500 to Country Roads Transportation, down $2,500 from this year; $5,000 to the Elkins-Randolph County Health Department, down from $12,000; $16,000 to the Elkins-Randolph County Library, down $4,000 from this year; $5,000 to Appalachian Forest Heritage for AmeriCorps Volunteers; $2,500 to the Randolph County Community Arts Center, down from $4,500 this year; $3,500 to the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission, down from $6,500 this year; and $5,000 to the Randolph County Development Authority, down from $12,000 in the current budget.

Councilwoman Marilyn Cuonzo said she was totally against cutting funding to the library and also to Country Roads Transportation.

“If we cut out a whole run for them, we are cutting out revenue,” Cuonzo said. “People come to town to spend money.”

Councilman Lonnie Randall said all city departments took a hit in the new budget.

“We have to cut to outside entities if we cut what we are giving to our own departments,” Randall said.

Councilman Mitch Marstiller said at this time, council has given all it can give to outside agencies requesting funding.

Councilman Joe Sabatino said a study should be conducted to see how much revenue comes back to the city.

“I would like to see where the money comes back when we make a contribution,” Sabatino said. “We need to see who comes and gets a hotel room, who buys gas and who eats a meal associated with the events.”

The budget included no across the board pay increases for city employees. Council passed a resolution in December giving employees a stipend each year if money is available.

The budget provides a 20-percent increase for grinding, patching and paving roads.

The Elkins City Police Department will be provided $1,088,756, down from $1,130,873 in the current budget.

The Randolph County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau will be given 45 percent of the city’s hotel/motel tax, as required by state law, and the Elkins Depot Welcome Center will be given 5 percent. The city estimates the funding will be $72,000 for the Randolph County CVB, up from $58,050 in 2014 and $8,000 for the Depot Welcome Center, down from $9,450 last year.

Also during Wednesday’s special call meeting:

  • Elkins City Council members also voted to indefinitely postpone voting on a resolution which would appoint Elkins law firm Busch, Zurbuch & Thompson as the city prosecutor.

The resolution was tabled during last Thursday’s meeting following some discussion and unanswered questions by council members. It would reappoint the law firm of McNeer, Highland, McMunn & Varner LC as city attorney, but also a resolution to appoint the firm of Busch, Zurbuch & Thompson, PLLC as city prosecutor. In recent years, McNeer, Highland, McMunn & Varner have handled both city attorney and city prosecutor duties.

Council went into executive session for 50 minutes prior to the vote during Wednesday’s meeting, with Woolwine recusing himself. At Thursday’s meeting, Woolwine said he would abstain from voting on the issue because his wife is employed by Busch, Zurbuch & Thompson.

Several council members asked during Thursday’s meeting where and why the request to have two firms handle the city’s legal duties originated. Mayor Van Broughton told The Inter-Mountain the resolution came at the suggestion of the Personnel Committee. However, the reasoning behind the suggestion was never fully explained to City Council, Broughton said.

  • Kump House project coordinator Heather Biola asked council to approve a request for a state development grant. Biola said she needed approval because the city owns the Kump House property.

Biola said the grant application is a 50/50 match for $20,020 for a storm water protection project.

“We will pay for the project up front with a line of credit and then pay the money back with the grant if it is received,” Biola said. “This grant will not cost the city any money.”

Council voted unanimously to approve Biola’s request to apply for the grant.

The next Elkins City Council meeting is slated for 7 p.m. April 3.