Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston County Commission proposes funding eliminations

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Commission proposes to eliminate funding for the county health department, volunteer fire departments and economic development in its 2020-21 budget.

Commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. this morning to approve the tentative budget and conduct other business. The meeting is closed to the public because of the COVID-19 virus but it will be available on Facebook Live at the Facebook page, “Preston County Commission WV.”

The commission has said it will try to take questions from the public.

According to the state auditor’s website, Preston provided $23,057 to the county health department in the current fiscal year. The department’s total budget for the upcoming fiscal year was not immediately available.

“The money’s just not there, and we’ve cut every absolute corner we could cut to beat this budget,” Commission President Samantha Stone said Wednesday afternoon.
Stone said county budgets have been trending down. “And we’re just hoping when the carryover comes in we can get some of these outside agencies back,” she said. “I think the health department is an essential, very important part of the county.”

The proposed budget totals $8,429,531, according to a summary emailed to the press by the commission. The revised current budget, according to the auditor’s page, is $8,935,316 in the general fund plus $156,361 in coal severance.

The county also provides free office space to the health department. However, Stone said, “Looking forward we may have to look at, there is a lot of space needs within the county, and we’re just trying to get it sorted out. But there are no immediate plans to move them anywhere.”

Up until 2016-17, the county funded the department at a higher rate. In that fiscal year, commissioners cut the health department’s $36,742 allocation of the previous year by $6,000 after the board of health implemented a countywide smoking ban.

The county also proposes to eliminate the $2,250 per year it gives each of the county’s 12 volunteer fire departments and its $22,700 donation to the Preston County Economic Development Authority.

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