Decline of outside funding topic of budget meeting
HUNTINGTON -- Grants and outside funding are ways to help a city grow and prosper, but they are not ways in which to sustain that growth and prosperity.
That was the theme of Thursday's City Council budget meeting at City Hall. Purchasing, development, planning and Huntington Police were the departments featured during the meeting.
Mayor Steve Williams and Chief William "Skip" Holbrook used the Huntington Police Department as a primary example of why they think it is important for the city to generate funds to reduce dependency on outside funding.
"The alarming thing that you can see is the outside funding required to sustain what we are doing," Holbrook said. "Some of things we've bought (using outside funding) are 51 vehicles, 120 computers, all our service weapons, tasers ... just to name a few."
Holbrook said outside funding is dwindling, and the current standards that have been cultivated in the six and half years he has been chief cannot be sustained relying on those funds.
The Huntington Police Department has released its 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, a follow up to its successful 2008-2013 plan. Williams waved a hard copy of the plan in front of the city council and said if they did not read it, they do not deserve their seats.
Williams said it would take adding $1 million to the city's budget to begin addressing issues faced by the police department as it sees outside funding becoming more scarce.
"We've got some decisions to make," Williams said. "The decisions we are going to have to make are not going to make us popular when we have to go into our neighborhoods. But I can assure you this, the decisions that we have to make may not be popular now but when we are reflected back upon, they'll say it was this group that had the courage to move Huntington in the direction that it needs to go."
Councilman Scott Caserta said he is usually against fees, but understand the importance of putting tools in the toolboxes of the people out there doing the work that needs to be done. He said when he thinks about the progress made by the police department and city being reversed he is fearful.
"I don't like to make a budget on fear," Caserta said. "But you know what, let's not be fearful, let's be serious. Because, it concerns me greatly that we would somehow start going backward. We've got to find the money to keep the police department moving forward."
The police department is not the only city department facing uncertain futures due to declining sources of outside funding. Williams urged the council to also consider information presented by development and planning and purchasing.
No matter the department or amount of funds needed, Williams and the council agreed on the one thing that ties it all together -- tough decisions are on the horizon for the 2014-2015 budget.
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