Kanawha County approves $49 million budget

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Kanawha County Commission approved the county's 2012-2013 budget Thursday with little fanfare and no objections from employees or the county's elected officials.The $49 million budget includes no money for employee pay raises for the fifth year in a row, despite requests from some elected officials for a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for their workers.Commissioners Kent Carper and Dave Hardy believe money is too tight to give out raises, instead concentrating on shoring up the county's economic stabilization fund. County officials rely on the fund to keep paying bills during months when tax collections are slow.Deputy County Manager Dave Fontalbert, who keeps track of the county's finances, said overall tax collections were up about $1 million over last year, but almost all of the extra tax revenue went to pay for increases in health-care costs, rising fuel costs and other rising expenses the county can't control. A 3 percent raise for all county employees would cost about $700,000.Carper and Hardy have said that if county officials hadn't started freezing salaries and cutting back on spending when the economy turned bad in 2008, they would currently be laying employees off."We've spent three years trying to turn this aircraft carrier to get to a certain point, and we've done it," Hardy said. "But we aren't doing anything businesses aren't doing all over the country."
County Commissioner Hoppy Shores asked if the county could take table gaming revenue to help raise funds. Under state law, Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Nitro is required to give the county money each year, which commissioners have put into a special fund. There is currently about $400,000 in the account.Commissioners approved giving $100,000 a year in table gaming money to the Clay Center so county schoolchildren can attend events free at the Clay Center. But Carper and Hardy don't want to use the uncertain revenue stream from table gaming to pay for raises.County officials also recently found out that the city of Charleston received about $1.5 million in tax money the city wasn't supposed to get. That money will be coming back to the county.But Fontalbert said more than 80 cents of every tax dollar the county collects goes to the school system. The county's take of the $1.5 million won't be enough to pay for raises, he said.Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215. 
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