WHEELING, W.Va. — The mayor of Wheeling looks at eliminating city jobs that now sit vacant as a way to balance the city’s budget without any new fees or taxes.

“We have to do what’s right,” said Mayor Andy McKenzie who has proposed never filling more than 20 full-time positions. About half of those jobs are within the Wheeling Police Department. If hires were made for the vacancies, city officials estimated the shortfall by the end of the fiscal year would total $250,000.

“We’re in a unique position where we have a lot of positions open and so I felt that the time was now to make things right, to do what we have to do and not hire these people into these positions and then in a year or five years down the road, we’re laying people off,” McKenzie said.

“We have to do what’s right. I don’t what the magical number is, but we’re going to make changes. We’re going to make sure we continue to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers as well as deliver the services that they demand.”

Those opposed to such job cuts, though, are looking for other options.

One proposal is for the creation of a user fee — possibly of $1 a week — which would be charged to anyone who works within Wheeling’s city limits. Similar user fees are already in effect in Huntington, Charleston and Weirton.

Wheeling is one of the four West Virginia cities that already has Home Rule which means local officials have more control over how exactly the city is run. A total of 22 other cities have applied for 16 new available spots within the Home Rule Pilot Program.

McKenzie is a fan. “Cities in West Virginia don’t have the ability to really create revenue, it’s just the way the Legislature created the state 151 years ago,” he said. “And so cities have really been struggling on how to do they pay for pensions, infrastructure, costs of services, fire, police and all of these things.”

Wheeling currently has 370 full-time employees.

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  • The bookman

    Cities must balance their budgets. If Mayor McKenzie is being too forthright with the fiscal situation, then maybe schedule an office visit so he can review the numbers. If there is fat in Wheeling's budget in places other than law enforcement, make them find it. If not, and public safety is at risk, then get ready for the revenue bump. If public safety will not be sacrificed, then don't raise the taxes. Seems simple.

  • Dumb Liberals

    Prosperity thru Taxation! The pathway of Liberalfornia, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Detoilet, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington, Newark, Trenton, Camden, New York and most all urbanite bastions. 'Cause it works so well. The high speed roadways to destruction! The proven path.

  • The Answer

    Dollar Danny is a good teacher..

  • David

    Home rule us just another name for local taxing authority.

    It doesn't change anything about how cities have been run or can be run , it only allows for localities to levy additional taxes for the same services they are already taxing you for !

    It's just an additional layer of taxation for the same services.

  • ViennaGuy

    Parkersburg also has a so-called user fee. It was rushed through by the mayor and Parkersburg City Council to address a budget shortfall that, as things turned out, never actually existed. But it was an emergency; it had to be passed and passed now or the city was going to go into a financial death spiral(or so we were told)!

    Those of us who have to pay it call it the "employment tax," which is exactly what it is. Oh, and the mayor and City Council exempted themselves from it(no surprise there, eh?).

    • Shadow

      Cities are passe. WV should, at a minimum, go to County Government and save the overhead costs.