Buckhannon passes $4.5 million budget

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council has passed a $4,524,908 2019-2020 budget that includes merit-based wage increases for city employees that would not go into effect until December 2019.

Director of finance and administration Amby Jenkins said at Thursday’s city council meeting that the budget included a pay increase for full-time employees with a pool provided to each department for an average of $1 per hour per full-time employee. The supervisors will have the discretion to base the pay increase on performance evaluations within that department with a minimum of 25 cents per hour and a cap of $1.50 per hour. Included with the full-time employees will be the one part-time city police officer, according to Jenkins.

The budget includes 45 percent devoted to public safety and 33 percent towards streets.

As she stated previously, Jenkins never included any estimated collections of the 1 percent sales tax in the budget. Since the tax will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020, the earliest check the city will receive from that will be in April 2020 – just two months before the fiscal year ends.

However, the city does anticipate collecting $1.3 million in its Business and Occupation tax, $245,000 in utility tax and $321,000 in fire, police and safety complex fees. The library levies collected for the Charles Gibson Library are estimated to be $106,674.

An overall carryover of $650,000 is expected which was similar to last year.

“Once we close out our books June 30, we will have an actual number and we must come back and do a budget revision to reflect any balance on hand,” she said.

The next fiscal year budget includes the $329,000 grant funds received for Gateway West to extend lighting and sidewalks along West Main Street. That project total is expected to be $412,000.

The Street Department was budgeted $100,000 for street and sidewalk repairs and projects and $80,000 for paving projects on Spring Street, South Kanawha Street and Friendly Way.

Buckhannon Fire Department was budgeted $64,000 for medical equipment, turnout gear, air bottles and its continued accreditation process. Additionally, the police department budget includes the continued funding for the PRO officer at Buckhannon Academy, participation in the Mountain Lakes Drug and Violent Crime Unit and new body cams for BPD officers.

Jenkins also accounts for a 7 percent increase in health insurance within the budget.

The budget is available for review by the public at city hall, according to Jenkins.

After several budget meetings, council did not discuss the budget further before passing it Thursday.

Rondal Mitchell told Buckhannon City Council, the West Virginia Strawberry Festival would like to have a beer garden this year on a plot of land across from the Salvation Army on Saturday, May 12-Friday, May 17. The beer truck is not available for the Saturday of the Grand Feature Parade.

However, Mitchell proposed that the city think about an agreement to allow the festival to expand the beer garden area to include an area up to where the food vendors are.

Mayor David McCauley said, “There are some folks who will weigh in and say they are turning this wonderful thing into a big beer party, but when you go to venues that are also family friendly like the Italian Heritage Festival or the regatta in Charleston, they have the broader license.”

The festival is also hosting a new event on Sunday, May 12 and would like to have the beer garden available for that.

“We are really proud to announce that we are doing a first-ever Strawberry barbecue cookoff,” Mitchell said. “We have five categories and one of them is a Strawberry barbecue sauce,” he said.

McCauley said a letter from the festival board would be needed to clarify the amended request to have on the agenda for the Thursday, April 4 meeting since it was not on the March 21 agenda.

Jenkins shared that the 88 Restaurant and Lounge had turned in a new zoning form that included expanding alcohol sales and consumption in the pavilion throughout the year, instead of just for special events that are approved there.

“I shared that with Mr. Martin and he marked it off,” she said. “He did mention that new legislation is enacted and he will be able to do that eventually anyway. “

Councilman Robbie Skinner expressed his concern about the expansion of alcohol consumption areas.

“We have to be careful with this stuff,” he said. “We have to be careful with letting alcohol run rampant. That is all I’m going to say in regards to this and that.”

In other business, city council:

• approved the first reading of Ordinance No. 435 Downtown Parking Amendment which removes the kiosk at the lot on Spring Street and changes that Section A to Lot 4. The remainder will stay Lot 3. The lot adjacent to the public safety complex will be Lot 5. Lot 4 and 5 will now be two-hour free parking. The ordinance now advances to the second reading at the next council meeting April 4. If approved, it would go into effect May 4.

• approved an agreement for the Buckhannon Police Department officers to provide security for The Event Center at Brushy Fork. The agreement is between the officers and the Upshur County CVB for the officers to be at events when they are not working a normal police department shift. Police chief Matt Gregory said this third party agreement brings the informal practice in line with the national police accrediting process through CALEA. Councilwoman Mary Albaugh moved to approve the agreement which was seconded by Skinner and passed unanimously.

• approved city council meetings of June 20 and July 4 to be moved to June 18 and July 2 respectively due to holiday schedules.

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