Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston budget talks ongoing

KINGWOOD — Administrator of the Preston County Health Department V.J. Davis asked the Preston County Commission for funding in fiscal year 2023.

Davis started by thanking the commission, which owns the building the health department calls home, for allowing the agency to live there.

“You know we’re appreciative of that,” he said.

Cash funding from the commission to the health department was cut several years ago. Davis said he was hopeful the commission could restore some of it.

Moving forward, the health department is looking to increase its community health education program. Davis is also working on bringing stakeholders together to improve mental health care in the county.

However, based on budget discussions held in a work session after Tuesday’s meeting where Davis made the request, funding seems unlikely.

Tuesday was the second meeting to discuss the budget. The commissioners met with the county assessor and head of 911 to clarify some requests they made and to try to find extra money.

The budget presented Monday had no money in the contingency fund, County Administrator Kathy Mace said. After Monday’s meeting with office holders, she went through and tried to find money for $280,000 or 3% of the budget. She said she could not in good conscience not have the 3% contingency in the budget.

The requests so far were about $9.3 million, which was close to the revenue, Mace said.

“I’m going to look at you straight in the eye and say, ‘you don’t have an officeholder here, in my humble opinion that asked for anything exorbitant,’ no out of line, nothing,” Mace said. “Even in their special requests they made there wasn’t anything that was outrageous, nothing.”

The budgets impacted most by Mace’s proposed cuts are the largest, and include overtime for the sheriff’s office and a reduction in the amount of software costs the county covers. Mace also cut the commission’s budget by about $2,000. 

“I know that this funds nothing else,” Mace said. “It does no volunteer fire departments, no ambulances, funds nothing for the health department, nothing for the EDA, nothing for Preston Prevention Partnership, nothing for Arthurdale.”

Commission President Samantha Stone said that really bothered her.

“I mean, I get it, I get we’ve got to go to make the budget. We’ve got to balance it, we’ve got to. Everything’s got to be good,” Stone said. “But so many of these organizations that are looking for a slight infusion are things that need to move forward in order to increase our tax base in Preston County, our working tax base. And so this is just like …”

While other things are vital to the county, their first job is to reasonably and feasibly fund the constitutional offices, Mace told commissioners.

She also reminded them there is about $400,000 in CARES money and about $5 million in ARPA money to be used. Also, while nothing is funded initially, that doesn’t stop people from making requests, which could then be funded from the contingency budget.

TWEET @DominionPostWV