Cost-cutting measure put Martinsburg in the black

July 30, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The City of Martinsburg ended the 2008-09 fiscal year in the black.

But the positive balance came only after officials decided not to spend $250,000 budgeted for new positions, and department heads reported another $500,000 in cost-cutting measures such as reducing overtime work, Finance Director Mark B. Spickler said.

With the spending reductions and a slight adjustment in revenue projections that already were lowered in March by $500,000, Spickler said the city government finished the year June 30 with a general fund unencumbered balance of about $1.1 million.

"We knew this (lower revenue) was coming," Spickler said Thursday after a Martinsburg City Council meeting. "The positive thing is we got what we thought we were going to get after we saw the decline."


The city council's Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Aug. 10 to discuss how the money should be allocated.

"I think you're going to see the majority of it get put aside because we're kind of in a 'wait-and-see' mode with the budget, and only buy what we need right now until we see things have really turned around," Spickler said.

Revenue generated by building permits dropped to less than $100,000 this year, down from nearly $350,000 last year, Spickler said.

The city collected a little more than $7.15 million in Business and Occupation (B&O) tax revenue by the end of the fiscal year, but that amount only met the revised revenue projection that was made in March. B&O taxes are assessed on gross sales.

City officials originally had projected B&O revenue of $7.4 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year, which was down from $7.75 million collected at the end of June last year.

"We're not in bad shape. We're not in as good a shape as I thought we were going to be this year," Spickler said. "I saw it coming, but not that big of a drop in tax revenue."

Spickler said he knew the construction business was "spiked," and indicated his B&O tax revenue projection for the 2009-10 fiscal year was even less than for the past year.

While the B&O tax is the city's primary revenue source, Spickler noted other declines in revenue, including a drop in taxes collected on wine and liquor sales, which decreased from about $263,000 last year to $174,000 this year.

While revenue has declined, Spickler noted the city still has about $4.1 million in unspent money that has been budgeted for the Raleigh Street Extension, gateway signage, street paving and a host of other ongoing projects.

The city is slowing down the time frame for construction of some projects, but is continuing with design work, Spickler said.

City Manager Mark Baldwin announced Thursday the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) had given the municipality a notice to proceed on design work for revamping the town square for pedestrian traffic.

The city, which received a $300,000 transportation enhancement grant from the West Virginia Department of Transportation for the project last year, was reminded in a July 17 letter from the DOH the plaza's design should complement the historic district. The city's match for the state grant was $75,000.

The DOH this month also gave the city notice to proceed on installation of lighting along East John Street. That project was made possible by another $149,600 transportation enhancement grant, which was matched with $37,400 in city funding for the improvements.

Baldwin said Thursday the city also has applied for a $5 million federal fire department station grant to help build a new emergency services substation in the city's west end, but the city still would have to find money for equipment and other needs, Baldwin said.

In addition to $1 million set aside for the Raleigh Street project, the city council has set aside about $1.4 million for the fire/police substation, according to documents Spickler prepared.

The Herald-Mail Articles