BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission officially approved a $9.2 million budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year during their March 24 meeting.
The budget with revenues and expenditures balanced at $9,289,071, which is about $467,723 more than the county’s estimated budget for fiscal year 2021-2022. That budget was set at $8,821,348 when commissioners approved it in March 2021.
The Upshur County Commission conducted budget sessions March 14-21, where commissioners decide how to allocate funds and heard requests from various departments. The upcoming fiscal year begins July 1, 2022, and wraps up June 30, 2023.
Upshur County Administrator Carrie Wallace said a decrease in Class III Personal Property caused a dip of $11,000 in tax revenue expected for FY 23; however, a higher-than-anticipated carryover for FY 23 allowed the commission to avoid budget cuts.
Upshur County Commission President Kristie Tenney said requests for funds were all fair during this budget session.
“The Upshur County Commission is honored to work with the elected officials, supervisors and county employees to continue offering quality service to the residents of Upshur County,” Tenney said. “Allocation requests were very reasonable this budget year and for that, we are extremely appreciative.”
One of the costliest expenses of the year remained the regional jail bill, which was budgeted for $850,000, up $50,000 from the previous year.
“Of course, we like to watch the trends in the prior years and also keep an eye on the number of arrests that are happening, so we do see those are trending upwards, which means, of course, we’re going to have a higher regional jail expense,” Wallace said. “You always like to be conservative in your budget and make sure that you have enough room should it increase, so that was really the reason behind the increase of the $50,000, but we will not be facing an increase in that per diem this year, so it will remain at the $48.25.”
The per diem rate is what it costs the county per day per person to house individuals at the Tygart Valley Regional Jail via the West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Facilities Authority.
One unexpected cost this year is increased gas prices for the sheriff’s office and other departments that must travel.
“Of course, we are anticipating higher gas costs this year, but we really don’t know what’s going to happen in advance, so the budget for FY 22 for law [enforcement] gas, oil and tires was $50,000 and this year, we took it up to $55,000 for FY 23,” Wallace said. “But of course, if we see these prices continue to rise, we’ll likely adjust that number.
Other offices that purchase gas include the Addressing and Mapping, Building Permits and Floodplain office, the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Parks and Recreation, the Assessor’s Office, Maintenance Department, Service of Process, Home Confinement, E911 and Youth Camp.
The Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility received approval to perform several upgrades, including repaving the driveway and parking lot, removing the garage door and installing additional shelving for supply storage and purchasing the 27 new guillotine doors that were approved in FY 22 but not purchased.
“It’s going to be a lot better, too, once they remove that garage door,” Wallace said. “They will be able to have that shelving back there and have much more room. The improvements at the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control facility that have been made in the last three to four years have been huge.”
Those improvements will cost Lewis and Upshur County $10,250.
The Commission also dedicated $5,125 to Parks and Recreation for concession stand upgrades at the pool and an addition to the Pringle Tree Park.
“In spring of FY 22, the Commission will move forward with various concession stand upgrades, including an ice machine, commercial blender for smoothies and a commercial hot dog roller,” Wallace said. “Wi-Fi will be added to the pavilions and small upgrades will be made to the basketball court. Additionally, a gaga pit will be installed at the Pringle Tree Park.”
Gaga is a form of dodgeball that’s played in an octagonal pit with a soft foam ball.
The commission approved 3 percent raises for elected officials to distribute as they see fit as well as 10 percent raises for elected officials as approved by the Legislature during this season.
“For benefits, the retirement system for the Public Employees Retirement System, our contribution this year decreased to 9 percent, so that was nice for the county budget,” Wallace said. “The commission is still going to keep the Health Reimbursement Accounts funded at $2,000 and $4,000 for single and family [respectively].”
“They did have to increase the employee contributions lately — we’ve been at $20, $30 and $40, depending on the tier per month, and we’re going to go to $30, $50 and $60 and essentially, that just splits PEIA’s increase 50/50 between the employee and the Commission,” she added.
PEIA is the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency.
The commission allotted a total of $91,500 for external entities. Those include: $8,000 for Tri-County Visitation, $15,000 for Country Roads Transit (includes an additional $5,000 for routes to the Clarksburg VA facility to continue), $40,000 for the Upshur County Development Authority, $20,000 for the Buckhannon-Upshur Airport Authority, $1,500 for the Upshur Parish House, $5,000 for the West Virginia Strawberry Festival and $2,000 for the American Red Cross.
“For coal severance, we budgeted $60,000 for the upcoming year because we really haven’t spent the majority of the $34,000 that was budgeted last year,” Wallace said. “We really don’t have that obligated to any particular project at this time; we just have it under courthouse postage.”
In a separate budget, the E911 fund, the commission allocated $120,000 to purchase the Intellicomm upgrade for the CAD system, purchase two spare radio positions, pay for a lease program for telecommunicator chairs and buy a new E911 A&M software system. That system had been included in the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget but was not purchased.
“This additional software for the CAD system makes the process more automated when you call the 911 Center,” Wallace said. “We also budgeted for a lease payment on chairs that provides telecommunication chairs once per year for three years because of course, they’re sitting all day, seven days a week, so it’s nice to have that changed out on an annual basis.”