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Haws said user fee bill not a big concern as council gets first vote on budget

MORGANTOWN – When it comes to a bill sitting in the West Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee that would eliminate employment-based municipal user fees, Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws said Tuesday that he’s not overly concerned at this point.

The issue was raised just prior to Morgantown City Council approving a first reading of the city’s $38.1 million budget for the upcoming 2022 fiscal year.

Morgantown is one of nine cities in West Virginia with such a fee. The city takes $3 each week from anyone working inside the city and anticipates collecting $4 million in said fees as part of the upcoming budget.

Those funds are used to help fund police personnel and equipment, public works personnel and equipment, street paving and right of way projects.

Haws said he and Councilor Bill Kawecki met with the West Virginia Municipal League late last week to discuss strategies for combating the bill, noting, “I think we’re going to be successful.”

Haws pointed out that cities were given permission to create such fees through the state’s Home Rule program.

“I think those legislators pushing this are on a slippery slope … This was created under the legislation that created Home Rule, which gave municipalities the ability to look at what they needed,” Haws said, adding, “As a result, if they come back and circumvent what they created, think about how tenuous that makes anything else that occurs through the Home Rule program. I think it basically destroys it.”

Even so, Haws pointed to the fact that the 2022 budget was built with the unexpected in mind, considering the ongoing pandemic.

The budget includes just under $3.4 million in a financial stabilization fund and another $1 million in contingencies.

“I’m not real concerned at this point, but on the other hand, we did put some contingency aside, and we can certainly cinch in our belts even further if we need to at some point,” he said.

In other city news, council passed a resolution in support of the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.

The meeting’s public portion included eight speakers, all of which logged on to support the measure which opposes discrimination based on natural hairstyles in communities of color.

Tuesday’s resolution supports the CROWN Act at the state level and is a precursor to a city ordinance that will make it part of Morgantown’s non-discrimination language.

Lastly, City Clerk Christine Wade and Ballot Commissioners John Campbell and George Armistead drew for ballot positions for the April 27 municipal election on Tuesday morning.

The ballot will be:

1st Ward

  • Patrick Hathaway

2nd Ward

  • Bill Kawecki

3rd Ward

  • No candidates

4th Ward

  • Jenny Selin

5th Ward

  • Marly Ynigues
  • Tony Setley
  • Danielle Trumble

6th Ward

Dave Harshbarger

7th Ward

  • Brian Butcher
  • Ben Mayle

There is currently one write-in candidate in the 3rd Ward, Paul Liller. Write-in candidates do not appear on the ballot.