Community, Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

Mon Commission remembers former commissioner, approves 2024 budget

MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County Commissioner Jeff Arnett said Wednesday the commission would request the county courthouse flag be flown at half-staff in honor of former commissioner Bill Bartolo.

Arnett explained news of Bartolo’s death was recently shared by his family on social media.

“He was a good public servant and a good man. I had the opportunity to meet with him several times when I was running and he was always very kind with his time and advice. I appreciate that,” Arnett said.

Bartolo served one term on the commission, from 2008-2014.

Current Commission President Tom Bloom said he was unaware of Bartolo’s passing. The two men served together for two years, 2013-2014.

“It is a big loss for this community,” Bloom said. “He was just a good person.”

As for Wednesday’s business items, the commission approved a $37,680,653 budget for the 2024 fiscal year beginning July 1.

Commissioner Sean Sikora explained that number represents a 9.85% decrease from the budget passed this time last year and is about $2.8 million below the current revised 2023 spending plan.

After five consecutive years of dropping the county’s base levy rate, the commission has opted to hold tight for the coming year, keeping a rate of 22 cents per $100 of assessed value for Class II (owner-occupied) property and 44 cents for rental properties in a municipality (Class III) or the county (Class IV).

“That’s our base county rate. That is actually the lowest rate in the state,” Sikora said explaining that Class II, III and IV property valuations actually jumped by an average of 6.54% from last year.

So if the levy rate is the same and property valuations are up, how is the budget down?

Less carryover.

The current budget had a beginning balance (carryover) of more than $12 million. The 2024 budget is around $8 million.

“We’re bringing in more property tax,” Sikora said. “The difference is over the last year we’ve finalized a few major expenditures — $1.1 million to build out the Mon County Center, $1 million to Mon EMS and some others — so we’re peeling away that carryover through projects that we’ve finished up and are done.”

Sikora explained the county also provided $1,120,500 in grant requests from outside agencies, providing funds to about 59% of the applicants despite an 85% jump in the number of requests received.

Sikora thanked County Administrator Rennetta McClure for the amount of work she put into the document.

“It’s always been our goal to transform the way we do things as a county. Over the last couple years we’ve tried to optimize where we’re at and now we’re trying to stabilize where we’re at,” he said. “It’s very thoughtful and we put a lot of effort into this budget.”

Also on Wednesday, the commission provided $5,600 in support of the inaugural Monongalia/Mohigan Classic high school baseball tournament to be held March 31-April 1 at the Monongalia County Ballpark and Dale Miller Field in Mylan Park.

The round-robin schedule will include Morgantown, University, Clay-Battelle, Wheeling Park, Musselman, Uniontown, Greenbrier, Spring Mills, Parkersburg South and Jefferson. Trinity was initially included but removed due to a scheduling conflict.

Lastly, the commission approved a 15-month agreement with AlignHR for county human resources support services at a cost of $995/month.

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