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County hears budget requests, plans for fiscal year

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Feb 12, 2021

Earth moving equipment could be seen at the site of the new Shepherdstown Public Library on Tuesday morning. Library officials have asked the Jefferson County Commission to consider a capital funds donation, to help with furnishings for the new building. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — Following a public information session last week, the Jefferson County Commission began budget hearings on Monday, to get a more detailed look at the requests coming in from county department heads and outside organizations.

Last week’s informational session provided a brief overview on how the budget works in the county as well as a look into general requests for funding that have been submitted.

County finance director Michelle Gordon said the income level for the proposed FY22 budget stands at $26,581,446, up slightly from last year’s budget of $25,629,063. Gordon went on to say that requests for allocations exceed the income by approximately $2.2 million.

Requests for increased funding are coming from several areas, including a submittal by the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency of $725,000 to fund seven new positions. That number was discussed at great length by commission members during fiscal year 2021, in meetings with JCESA and fire and EMS providers. The total requested by JCESA tops off at just over $3.3 million.

Details of the request was provided to commissioners at a budget session on Feb. 9, after press time for this story.

Volunteer fire department requests were also discussed at the evening session. Fire departments sought an increase in their annual allocation of $105,000, taking the hoped-for amount to $770,000, to be divided among the county’s seven companies.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office also asked for an increase in funding, to add three new positions to the force, as well as to assist with overtime and supply costs.

During Monday’s session, commissioners heard a hefty request from 911 director Jeff Polczynski. The department’s request comes in at just over $2 million, some of which Polczynski explained is essential for training.

The county heard a request from the four libraries, where they asked for an increase in their funding, from $330,000 to $395,000. The additional $65,000 would be split between Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry and South Jefferson Public Libraries, along with the Charles Town Library.

In addition to the operations request, Shepherdstown Public Library also submitted a request for capital funds in the amount of $200,000, to be designated for furnishings for its new facility.

Also seeking some assistance via county funds was Jefferson County Community Ministries, an agency providing service to needy individuals in the county via a food bank, clothing closet and assistance with the homeless. Acting Director Pete Lowry requested $40,000 from the county to help with expenses not already covered by grant funding and donations.

County Administrator Stephanie Grove explained that 44 percent of the county’s budget is allocated to public safety, including police, fire, ambulance and 911 budgets. The next largest percentage, just short of 37.7 percent, goes to general government expense, which includes all elected officials and their offices. Insurance costs account for 8.2 percent of the budget, leaving just over 6.5 percent to be considered for outside entities.

The commissioners will deliberate after hearing all requests and hold a public hearing before final passage of the budget in late March.

All budget documents are available for the public to peruse at www.jeffersoncountywv.org, under the JCC heading.