Table gaming drop hurts city’s budget

NEW CUMBERLAND – New Cumberland City Council is poised to approve a budget that takes into account a $150,000 drop in video lottery and table gaming revenue over the last two years.

The precipitous drop in table gaming income – from $150,140 in 2013 to $23,192 budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year – is forcing City Council to put off some projects and make other difficult decisions, said Councilman Will White, finance committee chairman.

“When you lose $150,000, you’ve got to start watching things closer. We’re trying to get a grip on expenses,” White said.

The city’s 2 percent share of limited video lottery proceeds also has gone down – from $18,976 in 2013 to $13,220 budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year. Limited video lottery proceeds come from the West Virginia Lottery cafes that have proliferated across the state since the state legislature legalized such establishments in 2001.

Municipalities share in the net proceeds of the limited video lottery machines located within their geographic boundaries. The four cafes in New Cumberland – Al’s Plaza Lounge, Rebecca’s Lounge, VFW Post 3526 and Route 2 Cafe – have 23 machines, according to the West Virginia Lottery.

Not accounted for in the 2014-2015 budget is the more stable $114,000 that the city gets every year from Hancock County commissioners – New Cumberland’s share of the net proceeds from the video lottery slot machines at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort. Despite a recent scare in the state legislature, that amount is expected to be the same next year, City Clerk Tammy Jenkins said.

For fiscal year 2015, which starts July 1, New Cumberland is looking at a balanced budget of $526,490, White said.

But the finance committee’s wrangling over the details on Thursday highlighted the difficulties that small West Virginia cities face when trying to cover salaries and overtime, pave streets, maintain buildings and protect residents.

The committee agreed to recommend to City Council a 3 percent raise for all city employees, even though city employees were asking for a 6 percent raise.

Police Chief Lester Skinner said he met with city employees on Wednesday, and they agreed to ask for a 6 percent raise – “to make up for not getting a cost-of-living raise last year” – and longevity pay.

“You have some kind of union?” White said.

“No, but we’d like to sit down and talk,” Skinner said.

White said the finance committee meeting was not a forum for salary negotiations, so the meeting moved on.

The committee also agreed to budget $22,000 for overtime, mostly to help with staffing shortages in the street department and police department.

City Water Operator Pat Jones has been covering for a vacancy at the street department, and police Lt. Jeremy Krzys has had to cover for a series of departures from the police department.

The committee declined to budget specific amounts for much-needed repairs to the New Cumberland Municipal Building roof, street paving and building demolitions. An earlier draft of the budget had committed $20,000 toward building demolitions and $30,000 toward street paving.

City officials want to wait until June, the end of the fiscal year, when they will have a clearer picture of city finances.

Mayor Linda McNeil said the city may be able to get grants to pay for the city building roof repairs.

“Can’t we call somebody and ask for help?” White said. “Why write a check for $175,000 if someone would give us $175,000?”

McNeil said she is loath to pay for the roof repair by dipping into the city’s rainy-day fund and financing the balance with a bank loan. “That scares me,” she said.

New Cumberland’s main sources of revenue are the ad valorem (real and personal property) tax, the business and occupation tax, and city building rentals. The latter includes the monthly rent paid by businesses and government offices located in the building, and rental fees paid by the public for use of the gymnasium and multipurpose room.

City Council will meet in special session at 10 a.m. Tuesday to vote on the budget, which must be submitted to the state by the end of the month.