WHEELING, W.Va. – Like a lot of other cities across the country, Wheeling is struggling to balance its budget. City leaders were successful in the just completed fiscal year but it’s getting more and more difficult.
Wheeling City Manager Bob Herron said he’s concerned about 2014-2015. That’s why he has proposed cutting positions from the city’s budget.
“Our costs have increased, we’ve got pension increases, our revenues have flattened out, etc… If we don’t look at making changes to our employment level, then there’s a good chance we would have a deficit on June 30, 2015,” said Herron.
In order to avoid a $250,000 shortfall, Herron said the city needs to cut 20 to 21 positions. Currently those jobs are all empty. They haven’t been filled in more than six months. Eleven are police officers, one fire fighter and the rest are with the public works department.
“We don’t want to get into a position where this time next year we’re we have to lay people off. We’re trying to be proactive and address our financial situation going forward,” stressed the city manager.
It’s not a very popular plan. Earlier this week city council decided to table the issue and look into other ways of raising money, including a user fee. Council’s main concern was not filling those vacant positions within the police department.
Currently, the city is budgeted for 83 officers. However, they’re currently staffed at 73. Herron’s goal is to get to 72 through attrition.
“There has not been a drop off in service. Citizens have not noticed the fact that we don’t have those positions filled. So it’s my opinion that we can go ahead and eliminate them out of the budget,” he explained.
By making the cuts, Herron said the city will end this fiscal year more than $600,000 in the black. If they continue to fund those jobs, they’ll be a quarter million dollars in the red. Herron said the goal is to avoid laying off any city worker.