Huntington city budget facing $2 million decrease

With the city of Huntington already facing a revenue deficit in the 2016 fiscal year, it will see a further $2 million decrease in the 2017 fiscal year, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said Wednesday.

“We’re going to be down $2 million off of what we have, and we’re counting the user fee that has been placed,” Williams said.

The Huntington City Council voted to raise the user from $3 to $5 a week for fiscal year 2016 in September; a move that is projected to provide an additional $3 million in revenue.

However, with the continuance of the slumping economy, Williams said he is exploring further methods to produce revenue.

“The economy has slowed,” Williams said. “And as a result of that, I’m having to look at our own systems to determine what are some things we should do to increase revenue.”

Williams was adamant any methods of generating extra revenue would not come in the form of layoffs as he stressed his prioritizing of maintaining job security. “I’m not using the word ‘layoffs’ at all,” Williams said. “The last thing in the world that I would ever consider would be layoffs.”

“I think we have a responsibility to do everything we can to save jobs,” Williams continued. “It would be a last resort if we ever find ourselves to layoffs. I’m not talking about layoff with any of our department heads right now.”

However, while Williams remained dramatic in his promise of avoiding layoffs, he said such a pledge, ultimately, wouldn’t trump a desperate need to remain fiscally responsible if the situation came to it.

“They (worker unions) know they have a partner where it would be my last breath before I would have a layoff,” Williams said. “I’m not going to say (layoffs) would never be done; that wouldn’t be prudent business judgment. But it would be the last resort if we ever find ourselves there.”

Williams said the additional $2 million reduction in the city budget stems from the drastic rise in the cost of the city’s insurance programs. Williams said despite strict spending discipline from each of his department heads, the insurance costs have still increased beyond control.

“Every one of my department heads are managing their budgets, and they’re given a certain amount they have to live within,” Williams said. “The problem is we also have insurance costs that are literally exploding.

“As a result, that’s going to have an adverse effect on departmental activities because I have to balance the budget. If I’m asking department heads to maintain their budget to keep with their lines, but then my insurance line is going out, I don’t have extra money sitting around, so guess what, everybody has to pay for that.”

Williams, however, said his administration has no plans to put another fee increase up for vote to compensate for escalating costs.

“What you don’t want to do, and what we will not do under this administration, while we’re down by $2 million where we’ve got to raise fees to be able to offset that. No way,” Williams said.

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Huntington Mayor Steve Williams prepares to speak to Marshall journalism students Wednesday. 

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