Kingwood Council budgets for raises, new equipment for city

KINGWOOD — Kingwood Council is budgeting for a new truck and employee raises in fiscal year 2019-‘20 but isn’t banking on the new municipal tax to pay for them.
Council held a budget work session Tuesday night. As part of the session, council considered equipment that is needed. The list included a new Kenworth truck to pull trailer loads of garbage collected in town and at the transfer station to the Tucker County Landfill.
The town has a 1999 and a 2000 truck now. But, Councilman Mike Lipscomb said, the amount spent on repairs of old equipment would have paid a year’s payment on a new truck. The estimate for the new truck was $125,000, plus interest. City Clerk Mary Howell estimated the payment would be about $1,500 monthly.
Garbage receipts are down because Sunrise Sanitation, which replaced Preston Sanitation, doesn’t have Kingwood haul its trash to the landfill. But expenses, such as landfill fees, are also down, Howell noted.
Preston Sanitation still owes the city about $5,000. Howell said they recently made a $500 payment.
“Do we actually know that we’re — not making a profit — but staying well with our garbage pickup?” Recorder Bill Robertson asked.
Councilman Dick Shaffer does not want to see any fee increases.
“You’ve got people broke now,” he said.
Robertson replied that, “We can’t go broke while we’re feeling for them.” He asked city staff to prepare a report on expenses and receipts for garbage.
There was disagreement on how raises should be calculated. Some council members supported a percentage increase, while others wanted to give each worker the same raise, regardless of years experience or job performance.
In the end a straw poll was taken and the vote was 4-2 to go with a percentage raise. Robertson and Shaffer were on the losing side of the vote. Council told Howell to calculate a 3 percent raise for employees.
Council also discussed replacing the street sweeper, but Robertson said the truck is more important. The current street sweeper cost $98,000 in 2001, Howell said.
City Supervisor Bruce Pyles said a steam jenny — a high-pressure washer — is needed to clean equipment. He estimated that will cost about $3,000. Council told him to buy it from the current year’s budget.
Police Chief Charlie Haney said his department needs crime scene and evidence collection materials for each cruiser, office storage and filing cabinets, and a printer/scanner. He asked if council wants to hire a third officer but didn’t get an answer.
Council did not budget the penny per $1 municipal sales tax that will go into effect July 1. The first payments from that should come in October. Howell recommended it all be put in the contingency fund. There’s $5,600 in the fund currently.
“If we see that we need something in December, by then we’ll have six months of it in our coffers,” she said, noting there’s no way of knowing how much will come in. “I could tell you $50,000 and be off by $45,000,” she said.
In answer to a question from council, Howell said Kingwood hasn’t received a bill yet from the new city attorney. Lipscomb said he would still like to see the city web site updated, and Councilwoman Michelle Whetsell said she hopes the rest of the town’s street signs can be replaced this year.
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