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Weirton Council plans for next fiscal year

PLANNING — Weirton Council met in a work session Tuesday, during which discussions were held on a proposed general fund budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — The City of Weirton has begun planning its budget for the next fiscal year, although a proposal made by some members of city council could alter their path.

Council met in a work session Tuesday, gathering at the Weirton Municipal Building to discuss a municipal budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Current projections show the budget bringing in a revenue of $22,796,175.

“Tonight is the first look, chew, change of this budget,” Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh, who also chairs the city’s Finance Committee, explained, noting additional meetings will be held.

City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo noted what was being presented followed a review of requests from each department, with him and other officials deciding the priorities in spending.

“We met with each of the department heads,” DiBartolomeo said. “We decided what the city needed overall.”

Before getting in depth on the budget, though, Marsh raised the almost $6 million the city received during the current fiscal year from CARES Act funding, and, noting proposals made by Wheeling officials, suggested the city look into a relief program for the business community through exemptions in Weirton’s Business and Occupation tax.

Finance Director Diana Smoljanovich has projected $3.9 million coming in through the B&O taxes for the next fiscal year. Under Marsh’s proposal, each category of the tax could have its exemption limit adjusted, resulting in a potential reduction of $1 million for the city.

“I’m not putting this in stone,” he said. “I want to see the numbers.”

Mayor Harold Miller offered support for some type of relief for the business community.

“I have never, ever, ever been in support of the B&O,” Miller said, adding much of the business growth expected in the city would come from smaller business operations. “We need to make sure we don’t tax them out of here.”

Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel said he understands a desire to provide some assistance for business owners after the difficulties of the COVID pandemic.

“I’ve seen it firsthand,” he said, explaining family members had to close their business as a result.

He warned, though, the proposed budget was “lean” as it is.

DiBartolomeo also said such a cut in revenue would be difficult, explaining much of where funds are spent is dictated.

“A lot of our revenue is a conduit for other programs,” he said. “You only have so much discretionary spending.”

Smoljanovich said she would get council information on the B&O and potential changes this week.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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