WEIRTON - While the City of Weirton's 2015 budget may have been set a month ago, city officials are recognizing the need to make changes in order to stay afloat.
On Thursday, members of Weirton City Council met with community representatives as part of a budget review committee with the hope of finding a solution for the future.
All members of council, with the exception of Ward 1 Councilman Ronnie Jones, were in attendance, with the community represented by Jim Shockley, Kyle Wilson, Rick Stead, Vince Azzarello, Pat Ford, Rich Saxon and Ed Grace.
In March, city council passed a $14.6 million budget for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Officials warn, however, the budget leaves little wiggle room and nothing for any capital improvements. If nothing is changed, officials expect a budget shortfall to occur within the next year.
Ward 6 Councilman David Dalrymple explained the goal would be to have a plan by July 1, with the possibilities of decreased services, higher fees and taxes, new fees and taxes, or levies for select services, among the options for the committee.
"There are a lot of options," Dalrymple said. "None of them are painless."
WORKSHOP — Members of the City of Weirton’s recently organized budget review committee met for the first time Thursday. The committee is tasked with looking at what options can be used to improve the city’s financial status, including the possibilities of service cuts and revenue increases. -- Craig Howell
Those gathered agreed something needs to be done, with many saying the community needs to find a way to work together and think outside the box, where possible.
"We've had the same issues for 30 years." Stead, a member of the Weirton Police Department, said, adding he feels the city needs to take advantage of every avenue allowed it under the law.
Much of the loss of revenue, officials said, is a result of changes in population and the economy, with the reduction of available funds for street paving - divided among the city's seven wards - used as an example.
"The split hasn't changed, the demographics have," Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh said, noting the $2 municipal service fee will provide $136,000 for paving in 2015.
When the fee - which collects $2 per week from those working in the city - was enacted fewer than 10 years ago, it brought in more than $1 million for paving.
Increases in costs for services and materials also is a factor.
Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, requested the committee be provided with data of revenue and expenses, as well as trends, over the last 20 to 30 years, if possible, to assist in making any recommendations.
Azzarello, director of human resources at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort and a former Weirton city manager, explained the sources of revenue and expenses have changed over time, and warned some revenue goes directly toward certain programs or services.
"You're going to see some that have a direct correlation," Azzarello said.
Whatever recommendations are made, members of the committee said they want to make sure it will be something that can be used in the long term, not just a quick fix.
"You don't want to come here and put a Band-aid on it." Saxon, a local business owner, said.
Marsh said the budget discussions also will need to be addressed at the state level, explaining much of what municipalities are able to do is controlled by laws enacted by the Legislature.
The committee will next meet at 6:30 p.m., April 10 in Room 201 of the Weirton Municipal Building.
(Howell can be contacted at email@example.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)