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City's budget to be leaner

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- The city's proposed operating budget for the next fiscal year will be nearly $140,000 less than this year's.

City Council members got their first look at the proposed fiscal year 2001-2002 city budget at Thursday's work session.

The proposed budget totals just more than $10.1 million. Included in that is about $9.3 million in General Fund and Coal Severance Tax Fund expenditures. The rest of the money is in two funds earmarked for police equipment and capital improvements.

The largest expenditure in the proposed budget is employee salaries and fringe benefits, which comprise more than two-thirds of the city's expenses. The budget includes a 2 percent, across-the-board cost of living pay increase, as well as an additional 1.5 percent increase for certain classifications of employees. The supplemental increase is proposed for a three-year plan to eventually give increases to all employees.

The proposed budget also calls for a revision to the city's longevity pay plan and would give increased longevity bonuses to employees with 10 or more years of service to the city.

"Those are the biggest questions that need to be answered in a budget -- are we able to maintain services the citizens have come to expect, are we going to propose any large tax increases and are we proposing a cost of living increase," Councilman Jim Hunt said. "If we can achieve those results, it's not the whole budget in a nutshell, but I think those are highlights we should be proud of."

The biggest cut in the proposed operating budget is a savings of more than $250,000 in insurance premiums. Also included in the proposed budget is a proposal to eliminate the city's contributions to the Clarksburg-Bridgeport Convention and Visitor's Bureau, with the savings to be put toward the creation of the city's own visitor's bureau.

City Manager Tom Vidovich also has proposed closing the city compost facility if the Harrison County Solid Waste Authority denied a request for a $50,000 subsidy for the facility.

Vidovich also proposed filling the vacant position of Economic and Community Development Director.

Vidovich noted that the biggest problems with proposed budgets are the time frame involved.

"This is the thing -- you propose a budget in February and it doesn't begin to take place for another five months and then runs for an additional 12 months," he said. "A budget is more like a road map. There are no guarantees."

A detailed copy of the budget is available from Ferrari's office for public inspection and review. A public hearing on the proposed budget has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 1.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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