Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner at the city's Feb. 10 working session.

City budget: SYCC budget slightly down, funding for outside entities may be higher

BUCKHANNON – While the Stockert Youth & Community Center’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 dips down slightly, the City of Buckhannon has received several requests that may take its contributions to outside entities to a higher-than-normal amount.

No decisions have been finalized regarding the city’s over $5 million general fund budget, and Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said this week that council may have a couple more working sessions before the final budget is considered for formal approval.

The Stockert Youth & Community Center, which operates as a department within the city’s general fund, has a draft budget of $376,575 in expenditures. SYCC Executive Director Debora Brockleman said her 2021-2022 budget encompassed money to hire a third full-time person who could help with billing. That item is a carryover form the 2020-2021 budget.

“We want to stagger it so there will always be a full-time person here, and in addition to doing everything else that we do, this person is going to be in charge of billing and the Buckhannon Volunteer Center as well,” Brockleman said.

Jenkins said although there hadn’t been much movement on Stockert’s proposed new multi-purpose auditorium/gymnasium, she had budgeted financing at $3,200 a month for a new building.

“I think we talked about it, but there’s not been a decision made (by the SYCC Board) on it,” Jenkins said.

Brockleman said activity at the center is likely to pick up in the coming fiscal year as more people become vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition to its drill team, kickboxing, karate and basketball programs, SYCC will soon begin offering a select number of dance classes – including hip-hop and theatrical dance – for young people, Brockleman said. She also hopes parties can resume after July.

SYCC executive director Debora Brockleman at a working budget session Feb. 10. Also pictured is city recorder Randy Sanders.

Jenkins and council discussed several funding requests from outside entities, including the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is requesting a minimum amount of $120,000. Typically, the city automatically remits 70 percent of hotel/motel tax to the CVB, but given the pandemic’s prohibitive effect on travel, executive director Laura Meadows said that just this year, the organization may need a bit of a boost from the city.

“I have budgeted $80,500, but they want council to commit at least $120,000 and I think that’s going, to be kind of hard because we won’t know until we’re towards the end of the [fiscal] year what we’re going to be at,” Jenkins said. “They may make $120,000.”

Skinner, councilman CJ Rylands and councilman David Thomas said they were in favor of making up the difference between the $80,000 in hotel/motel tax Jenkins had estimated and the CVB’s benchmark of $120,000, which would amount to approximately $40,000.

“That organization provides value to this community and we’re going to be asking additional work out of Laura relative to the band competition coming up, and I think we should consider this and hope that the market does regulate itself,” Skinner said. “We can make it known that we’re not committing to the [$40,000] number forever.”

Skinner said he would like to increase the Upshur County Development Authority’s funding from $30,000 to $40,000, and city recorder Randy Sanders noted that the Buckhannon-Upshur Airport Authority may request a bump in the amount council contributes to them because of the loss of a grant.

“There is another funding issue that I think is going to come our way soon, and that’s the Upshur County Airport (Buckhannon-Upshur Regional Airport Authority],” Sanders said. “I think we need to put it on our radar that the board will probably be coming to the city and to the county for assistance unless they get an FAA waiver. They fell short on some of their requirements, and they’re losing $150,000 a year for two years in funding, so just keep that in the back of your head.”

Jenkins also told council she’d budgeted $5,000 each for Festival Fridays and the West Virginia Strawberry Festival (in 2022) and $6,000 for fireworks (in 2022).

In city hall-related expenses, Jenkins said she’d budgeted $120,000 for a new roof because the current one is leaking and in dire need of repair.

Finally, Jenkins suggested that council budget money for flood control and river cleanup for the Buckhannon River.

“I keep that on the radar because that eventually needs to be addressed,” Jenkins said. “That’s not a cheap or safe fix. I just want to keep that point on your minds because there’s some debris in the river, and it needs cleaned up.”

Buckhannon City Council is currently considering a budget of more than $5 million for the upcoming fiscal year, boosted by an influx of funds from the 1 percent sales tax that went into effect last January. The additional funding will allow the city to significantly strengthen its essential services, from public safety to infrastructure.

This will mark the first year of budgeting in which Buckhannon City Council can use a full year’s worth of its 1 percent sales tax to invest in general fund departments. Since the sales tax went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, the city has collected about $1.6 million, most of which has come in since the beginning of the current fiscal year. The final budget must be approved and submitted to the West Virginia State Auditor’s office by March 28, 2021.

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