Hancock sets $10.5 million budget for ’15

NEW CUMBERLAND – Hancock County commissioners approved on Thursday a new budget that they said shows little change from this year, despite a slight increase on the revenue side.

The $10.5 million budget is 3 percent higher than the current fiscal year’s budget, but commissioners downplayed the significance of the difference.

“We’re pretty much at status quo – we’re not cutting any services and we’re not increasing taxes,” Commissioner Jeff Davis said.

Fiscal year 2015 begins on July 1, but counties must submit their budgets to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office by the end of March.

The budget includes an estimated carryover balance of $1.1 million, $4 million in property tax revenue, $2.95 million from video lottery, $430,000 from casino table games, $200,000 from the hotel occupancy tax and $240,000 in state grants.

Although income from casino table gaming, video lottery and the hotel occupancy tax has been on a steady decline, none of the three revenue sources were budget busters this year.

Commissioners got a scare in February, when a bill was introduced in the state House of Delegates that would have cut lottery revenue appropriations to cities and counties by 15 percent and redirected the money to the State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund. Commissioners said the measure would have cost the county $500,000 a year – roughly 5 percent of the county’s annual budget.

In the end, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a version of the bill that removed cities and counties from the equation but still cuts lottery revenue appropriations to various thoroughbred and greyhound breeders’ and purse funds by 10 percent.

Robert Vidas, executive director of the county’s Office of Technology and Communications, said the increase in revenue comes mainly from two state grants and the anticipated reimbursement from Hancock County Schools for three new prevention resource officers.

The latter are Hancock County sheriff’s deputies who will be assigned to the district’s three elementary schools starting in the 2014-2015 school year.

On the expenditure side, $6.1 million is budgeted for general operating expenses and $4.1 million is budgeted for public safety $2.3 million of which covers salary and benefits for the sheriff’s department.

Other big-ticket items are regional jail costs ($570,000) and courthouse security ($114,000). Salaries for the 14 new courthouse security officers will be covered by a federal grant through September, Vidas said.

Commissioners commended Vidas and Karen LaScola, administrative assistant for finance, for their work on the budget.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)