Morgantown City Council approves $1.7 million Norwood Fire Station project, second reading of FY 2023-24 budget

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The City of Morgantown will redirect federal grant funds to complete fire station improvements and is moving forward with the second reading of the 2023–24 fiscal year budget.

In January 2022, councilors approved a bond issue of $7 million for improvements to City Hall, the City Garage, the Public Safety Building, and the Norwood Fire Station. The fire station project was budgeted at $400,000 for repairs, updates, plumbing and ventilation upgrades, and the creation of secondary sleeping and restroom areas.

The successful bidder for the project, Lytle Construction corporation submitted a price more than 70 percent above the projected $400,000 budget. Assistant city manager Emily Muzzarelli said an alternate request to add a decontamination room was not accepted.

“The base bid plus Add Alternate 1, which is what we are recommending, is in the amount of $1,770,957,” Muzzarelli said.

She said creating separate sleeping areas is a strategy from the pandemic that does increase the cost, and the repairs and ventilation upgrades have been needed.

“The base bid is for the creation of the individual sleeping quarters and reparations to the bathroom, where there was some foundational damage to the plumbing,” Muzzarelli said.

The council voted to bridge the more than $1.3 million shortfall through carryover and Community Block Grant funds that must be used by November 2023 or forfieted. The coronavirus-related funds can be used for first responder upgrades to facilities.

On the second reading of the FY 2023-24 budget, Morgantown Finance Director Kevin Tennant unveiled the updates to the budgets of the city sales tax fund in front of Morgantown City Council Tuesday night. Details of budgets were also released for the City Capital Escrow Fund and the Morgantown Municipal Airport Fund as part of the city’s approximately $43 million budget, which showed increases in revenues and expenses in comparison to last year. This doesn’t include adjustments made from county property tax revenues.

“With this reading, revenues are up $135,000, which is .3 percent of the total budget,” said Tennant. “And to balance things out, we included that in our contingency, bringing the reserve amount up to $1,145,000,” he said.

Municipal tax revenues are projected to be $9.56 million for FY 2023-24, resulting in about an eight percent increase from sales tax revenues in FY 2022-23 (approx. $8.8 million). Much like in last year’s budget, a quarter of the funds will be dedicated to the City of Morgantown General Fund, the City Retirement Fund, the City Capital Escrow Fund, and BOPARC. Tennant stated that those totals are projected to be approximately $2.39 million per account. The projected revenues are being given a conservative estimate along with adjustments for county property tax revenues

“Property taxes have increased from the last reading by $135,000, due in part to a very conservative estimate on my part and then also an increase in our assessed values provided by the county,” said Tennant on revenue estimates.

The approximately $7.56 million designated for the City of Morgantown Capital Escrow Fund for FY 2023-24 is just over an eleven percent increase from last year (approx. $6.5 million) . Along with the $2.39 million projected from municipal sales tax funds, the Capital Escrow Fund is expected to receive funds from municipal service fees ($2.89 million), contributions from the General Fund ($1.21 million), and a combined $1.09 million from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, B&O Construction revenues, and other investments.

“The only thing that changes is that we did add $13,400 in additional agency funding for the Morgantown Area Youth Services Project (MAYSP) and the Community Coalition for Social Justice,” he said.

The majority of the $7.56 million in the Capital Escrow Fund for FY 2023-24 will be dedicated to the City of Morgantown Street Department ($2.12 million), the Morgantown Airport ($1.43 million), and the Morgantown Fire Department ($1.10 million). Approximately $700,000 is dedicated to Hazel Ruby McQuain Park, and $350,000 goes towards the Morgantown Police Department.

Approximately $4.65 million is included as part of the Morgantown Municipal Airport Fund. For FY 2023-24, the majority of the revenues from the airport are projected to be from fixed-based operations (approx. $3.51 million), with the majority of the expenses coming from fixed-based operation commodities (approx. $2.37 million). An adjusted budget with more finalized revenue numbers are expected to be discussed in the summer.

“And we anticipate that our revenue will be a little bit based on incomplete information,” said Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws. “There’s an additional budget revision that occurs in the first part of the fiscal year in July and the first part of August,” he said.

The FY 2023-24 budget for the city Arts and Cultural Fund is approximately $547,000.