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Council approves budget revisions

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington City Council unanimously approved a budget revision Monday that sets several of newly elected Mayor Steve Williams' initiatives into motion.

Williams' requests are included in an expansive package of changes to this year's fiscal budget. The centerpiece of that revision is the removal of $339,773 from various departmental budgets to comply with Williams' request for an up to 2 percent budget cut for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Williams called for the cuts, which do not include any layoffs, as a precaution to make sure the city stays in the black through June 30. The money will be moved to the city's rainy day fund.

The budget revision also outlines how Williams wants to spend proceeds from the sale of the municipal annex building next to City Hall on 5th Avenue. The city sold the dilapidated building to a local developer for $100,000 in November. It will be demolished this spring to make way for a parking lot.

In addition to previously announced contributions of $25,000 each to the Huntington Area Development Council and to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center to help with roof repairs to the historic theater, Williams will appropriate $27,500 toward "exceptional city grants." Under the grant program envisioned by Williams, each City Council member will have $2,500 to distribute among neighborhood associations, community centers or any other organization that will use the money to spur development in their respective districts.

The details of the grant program have not been ironed out yet, but there will be a level of accountability required of council members and of groups that will receive funding, Williams said.

"We will have to create a paper trail," he said.

Some council members have suggested keeping the grant money in one lump sum and taking applications from community groups, Williams said.

"Those decisions are theirs," he said. "They are the appropriating body."

The Huntington Police and Fire departments also will receive $5,000 each from the building's sale for safety equipment, and the Cabell County Library would get $12,500. The library has a two-story parking lot on the east side of the annex building and asked the city for financial assistance because it will have to make alterations to the lot after the building is demolished, Williams said.

The mayor also will move $35,000 from the city's contingency fund to his office to launch four initiatives identified by his transition team last month:

Create a communications office to address media requests and inform the public of city affairs.

Implement policies to improve relations between labor and management.

Create a "business services" division to strengthen tax and fee collections and streamline the licensing and registration process.

Identify ways to increase activities in the downtown without disrupting commerce.

At least four and as many as seven new positions could be created out of the new initiatives, Williams said. Several of those new employees, such as tax and fee collectors, will generate revenue to offset their salaries, he said.

In other business Monday, the council advanced an ordinance that attempts to refinance a 2006 sewer revenue bond issue of $1.45 million at a lower rate to a third reading.

The ordinance authorizes the city to seek a better interest rate. Current market conditions show the city could save up to $10,000 annually if the bonds are refinanced, Williams said.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.



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