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Morgantown City Council gets look at ‘very preliminary’ 2022 spending plan

MORGANTOWN — “With the uncertainties of COVID …” — a phrase that played heavily into a Wednesday evening budgeting workshop held by the city of Morgantown.

Members of Morgantown City Council got a look at a very  preliminary $38,075,500 general fund spending plan for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins  July 1.  

Whereas the city had just adopted its fiscal year 2021 budget  when the onset of a global pandemic basically sent it back to the drawing board, the city  goes into the 2022 fiscal year knowing what it doesn’t know. 

How much longer and to what extent will CARES Act funding continue to be available? Will the rollout of vaccines start to turn the financial tide?

“Things are tenuous. There are just so many unknowns that it would be my preference to budget conservatively when you’re not sure what your revenues are going to look like,” City Manager Kim Haws said, adding that CARES Act funding looks to be drying up, at least for now.

The preliminary spending plan presented represents a reduction in revenue from both the current 2021 fiscal year as well as 2020 ($39,160,606). However, the city is anticipating a $4.1 million carryover as well as $1 million in its contingency fund due largely to the CARES Act funding it has received.

That contingency amount is up from $235,879 in the current spending plan. It was $288,884 in 2020. 

The budget city council approved last March was $39.7 million. According to the budget document on display Wednesday, the budget currently sits just over $43.3 million. The city explained in September that it had received just under $7 million in CARES funding and anticipated as much as $3 million more by the end of the calendar year. 

“The primary bulk of that, right now, is in our contingency. If you look at the revenue section, it’s what we have as an anticipated carryover,” Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli said, explaining the anticipated carryover is $4.1 million. 

Further, it was explained that  the majority of the $2.3 million in the city’s financial stabilization fund also came from CARES Act funding. 

“I think it’s worth pointing out that our budget is a bit lower than it was two years ago, yet the contingency is almost four times what it was there,” Mayor Ron Dulaney said. “Given the fact that we are experiencing a difficult year and it may very well continue into the following year, I do appreciate the effort, within a reduced budget, to increase that contingency.”

The budget document also indicated that the city anticipates $6 million from the first full year of its 1% sales tax, which went into effect in July 2020.  That money is divided evenly four ways ($1.5 million) between BOPARC and the city’s general fund, capital escrow fund and retirement fund.