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CURRENT STORIES


Area agencies eagerly await their shares of budget digest

by Nora Edinger

REGIONAL EDITOR

CLARKSBURG -- Half a week after the state's 2003-04 budget digest went public, area beneficiaries are making tentative plans to spend the money that's coming their way.

Several agencies that had made multiple applications to North Central legislators were also trying to figure out on what they were supposed to spend it. They had not received detailed information as of Tuesday on exactly which of $100 million of requests made statewide were funded.

Among them was William Parker, Upshur County administrator. All he knew was Upshur County Youth Camp was listed for two $25,000 appropriations.

"We're not sure if it's for a specific project or general renovations," Parker said. That 50-some-year-old camp has gotten budget-digest funding for about four years.

The budget digest is a list of line items legislators insert into departmental budgets. Statewide, about $21 million of the state's $3.03 billion 2003-04 budget was appropriated that way.

Ken Yost, Salem city manager, was also among those who had questions sparked by the digest funding. His were of another sort. That city was awarded $20,000 of a $50,000 request and he was trying to figure out how to fill the gap.

Yost, who was pleased to get even the reduced funding, said the city may have to wait to complete a basketball court/ice-skating rink it plans to install at Salem City Park.

"We'll probably be able to prepare the surface, but probably won't be able to fence or light it right away," Yost said.

He mentioned that waiting is an anticipated part of working with the budget digest, whose funds are distributed throughout the entire fiscal year. The city is also waiting on a 2002-03 appropriation for a new roof and a paved parking area for a community building at the same park.

The current budget year does not end until June 30.

Other recipients were looking forward to easily identifiable appropriations.

Lt. Col. Rodney Moore, squadron commander for the Harrison County Civil Air Patrol, said the $30,000 headed that organization's way is flagged for capital improvements to a building at Harrison-Marion Regional Airport and its operating budget.

Moore said that organization, whose operations include search and rescue, has gotten such funding for at least three years and depends on it for a substantial percentage of its budget.

Doug Van Gundy, director of the Randolph County Community Arts Center in Elkins, said a $25,000 appropriation that agency got will be used to pay down its mortgage. The center bought the old St. Brendan Catholic Church in 2001 and opened for concerts, dances, art classes and the like late last year.

As evidence of this year's slimmed-down budget digest, he noted the center was awarded $45,000 for the same purpose last year.

"It was smaller this year, as I'm sure it was for most projects. We just appreciate whatever they give us," Van Gundy said.

Statewide, the digest was down from $35 million for the 2002-03 year to $21 million for the upcoming year.

The limits on digest spending does not mean that detailed expenditures are not made elsewhere in the budget. Del. Barbara Warner, D-Harrison, noted that $1 million is designated in the regular budget to do a dredging project on Simpson Creek in Bridgeport.

"It's really just a carryover," she said of funding that had been awarded in previous years. The project is just now at the stage in which it can tap into the funds.

Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at nedinger@exponent-telegram.com