Morgantown approves budget cuts

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown City Council voted unanimously to cut $3.12 million from the FY 20-21 budget due to the coronavirus crisis.

The budget revision retains the 12 SAFER grant firefighters and includes a 23 percent increase in the fire fee. City Manager Paul Brake told council members an ordinance raising the fee will be presented to them at the April 28 meeting.

“If this fee is increased, the city finance department will make available hardship applications for any resident or business that needs additional time to pay,” Brake said,”Finance will not charge penalties or interest and will offer a payment plan as needed.”

Brake says the budget does include $15,000 for downtown initiatives and $10,000 to enter into a partnership with the county to help house homeless people.

Those two amounts are offset by a decrease in the Main Street Morgantown Facade Improvement Program.

The budget also does not include increased revenue from from rental inspections and eliminates the proposed new full-time position.

Brake said there is an internal effort to get employees to volunteer to work fewer hours while keeping their benefits. Some workers are being asked to decline salary increases in exchange for vacation time, workers close to retirement are asked to consider making that step.

“I should emphasize, this is the first wave,” Brake said,” So, there will probably be a second or third iteration.”

The Revenue side of the budget includes 25 percent decreases in the Wine & Liquor Tax, Hotel Occupancy Tax, Video Lottery and Gaming taxes. The Municipal Service Fee and B & O taxes are down by 10 percent each, amounting to a revenue decrease of about $1.8 million.

Expenditures eliminated are the 2.5 percent COLA increase, paid interns, full-time summer help for the street department, hiring freezes for the police and engineering departments, overtime, $500,000 in deferred capital improvements and $500,000 each for deferred police and public works equipment.

BOPARC and Morgantown Municipal Library funding will remain unchanged from FY 19-20 as well as all other agencies funded by the city.

This story will be updated.