WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County commissioners approved a $19 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year on Tuesday that slightly lowers the county levy rate.The total budget is only about $600,000 more than commissioners budgeted this time last year and doesn't provide any additional money for county-funded services like the library, the health department and parks and recreation.The Class 1 levy rate will decrease from 13.85 cents to 13.75 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Last year, commissioners raised the amount from 13.55 cents to 13.85 cents per $100.For the second straight year, the budget only leaves room for 1.25 percent raises for county employees, and those raises will be handed out only after a review of finances when the fiscal year ends in July.
"I wanted the 2.5 percent raise," Commissioner Joe Haynes said after the meeting. That's the amount that county employees had been receiving prior to last year. Haynes added that he thought the county could have afforded to lower the levy and also give the higher raise and provide some additional funds for outside agencies."We're not in a budget crisis when we can afford to lower the levy," he said. "Employees need pay raises and I fear it will keep us from holding on to good employees."In letters to elected officials and department heads, commissioners also warned they are considering doing away with longevity pay, which provides employees with a yearly bonus based on the number of years they've worked for the county."It's one of those things people count on," Commissioner Andy Skidmore said, noting that commissioners wanted to let employees know not to expect them. "We want to make people aware they're not mandatory."Commissioners did not increase the sheriff's budget last year. The sheriff, however, had requested $264,000 more than what is in his current budget to hire new deputies and buy vehicles.For the county's regional jail bill, $1.6 million was budgeted compared to $1.4 million last year. Other elected officials received slight increases for their offices.In other business, commissioners decided to change the boundaries of the proposed tax increment-financing district at the Putnam Business Park after several property owners in Fraziers Bottom voiced concerns at a public hearing.Commissioners tried to convince about five landowners that being included in the district wouldn't increase their property taxes, but commissioners eventually just agreed to redraw the lines.As with other TIF properties, new property taxes generated within the park and several surrounding properties would help fund utility extensions at the park - as long as the plan is approved by the state Development Office."I have no desire to force someone in that doesn't want to be," Haynes said. "We tried to make you understand, but you're still skeptical."Also at the meeting, Joyce Arthur, director of Putnam Aging, spoke to commissioners about recent criticism the senior nutrition program has received in Kanawha County.
Putnam Aging operates senior nutrition programs in Putnam, Kanawha, Clay and Fayette counties based on a state contract dating back to 1993. Putnam Aging supplies meals at several senior centers in Kanawha County and delivers home meals to some Kanawha County residents.Arthur denied the accusations that hospice patients weren't being served and that some seniors had been on a waiting list to get food for two years."Hospice patients go to the top of the list," she said.Putnam commissioners believe that some of the information from Kanawha County officials had been misconstrued to media outlets."I've always found the atmosphere to be good, the food good," Haynes told Arthur. "Keep up the good work.""If there's a problem they should come to us, so we don't have to find out things through the newspaper," said Ellen Mills Pauley, the agency's board president.
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