City council meets to discuss upcoming spending plan

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council spent about three hours Tuesday evening reviewing the city’s $37.3 million spending plan for the upcoming 2019-’20 fiscal year.

While members of council were able to go into the details of the upcoming budget with City Manager Paul Brake and Finance Director Jim Goff, it was also noted  the city is undertaking efforts to make the details of its finances more accessible to taxpayers.

As an example, Brake pointed to  data compiled by the city’s communications office — to be available on the city’s website — which breaks down where and how various revenue sources like fire fees, the $3 weekly user fee and property taxes are utilized.

According to those documents, a  resident who also works in the city pays a total of  just over $600 annually to live in Morgantown  based on those categories — user fee ($156), fire fee ($145.54) and property taxes ($300).

Those numbers were calculated  using a 2,000 square-foot home with a market value of $200,000.

Looking specifically at the user fee, charged weekly to anyone working within the city’s boundaries, the upcoming budget projects collections totaling $4.5 million.

Of that amount, approximately $1.85 million will go toward police personnel and the purchase of police equipment. Since 2014, user fee funds have been used to add 10 officers to the city’s police force.

Additionally, user fee funds will provide $1.8 million for right-of-way improvements, including paving and sidewalks.

Lastly, about $835,000 will be spent on public works personnel and equipment.

The city is expected to collect $3.3 million in fire fees, which covers just over half of the fire department’s $6.5 million budget for the coming year.  The rest of the money will come out of the city’s general fund.

Not in the coming fiscal year, but for 2020-’21, the city is looking at the implementation of a new fire service fee as an effort to offset the declining percentage of fire department expenses covered by the city’s existing fire fees and offset an expiring three-year, $1.7 million federal grant which allowed the city to hire a dozen new firefighters in 2018.

Property taxes make up 11.6 percent of the city’s upcoming spending plan, at an estimated $4,345,398.

These taxes represent the city’s second highest revenue source, behind  general business and occupations taxes, which are expected to bring in $13.3 million. Business and occupation construction taxes are third, at an estimated $2.3 million.

Property taxes are placed in the city’s general fund where they are used for public safety, general government expenditures and streets and transportation, among other city operations.

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