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Williams enacts spending, hiring freeze

Feb. 06, 2014 @ 11:29 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington Mayor Steve Williams has put the city under a hiring and unnecessary spending freeze until the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

The mayor made the announcement at a City Council work session Thursday afternoon.

"We did this at this time last year, and it allowed for a cushion heading into working on the budget," Williams said. "Our revenues and expenditures are running the way they should, but our actual cash contingency is lower than I think anyone on this council would be comfortable with.

"In essence, this will help build that contingency back up."

Last year, the first-term mayor put the plan into action on his inauguration day. He also cut each city department's budget by 2 percent, something he's not doing this time around.

"I felt that we didn't need to reduce the budget," he said.

"Our revenues are strong, and our expenditures are running along where we thought they would."

Williams said the city has about $2.5 million in its contingency coffers at the moment, but roughly $2.4 million is what he called "encumbered money," meaning it's budgeted to be spent.

"Less than $100,000 is actual contingency cash," he said. That's not much should the city face an emergency, he said.

"So our intention is, for our own fiscal health, let's start building our contingency," he said.

The freeze means vacated positions won't be filled, and the city won't undertake any new major projects until July 1.

"We're not going to be buying new equipment or take on any construction (that isn't already in the budget)," Williams said. "We won't be filling any positions, so we will start accumulating from those vacated salaries and that becomes working capital."

Hiring and spending freezes are not a new budgetary tactic in the city. The two previous administrations -- those of Kim Wolfe and David Felinton -- also used freezes to stabilize the city budget. And it hasn't always been the mayor who has made the call. In 2005, it was the City Council that voted to enact a spending and hiring freeze.

Williams told the council Thursday that he knew when he was a councilman, he would look at the numbers and become alarmed at what action needed to be taken. He said his decision was partly made to pre-empt any panic on the council's part.

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