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.