March 22, 2012
Charleston council members approve $84.2 million budget

CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- With little fanfare Thursday, city council members approved Charleston's $84.2 million budget for 2012-13.

The special council meeting Thursday evening, devoted exclusively to passing the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, ended one of the smoothest budget-making seasons in recent history.

Most of the big decisions -- staff cuts in the fire and police departments -- had been made by city officials before giving the budget to city council.

However, one councilman made a last-ditch effort Thursday to end the long-standing policy of handing out "free" trash bags to city residents. Councilman Marc Weintraub introduced a budget amendment to reduce the city's spending on the trash bags from $425,000 to $75,000. The $350,000 difference would then be added to the city's municipal stabilization fund, according to the amendment. Councilman Chris Dodrill seconded the amendment. Weintraub said he's raised the issue in the past because he believes the trash bag spending is a waste of city money and resources.

"Opponents say if we don't hand out the trash bags, then trash would flow out into the streets," he said. "But I know our neighbors are better than that."

The amendment was struck down with only Councilmen Doddrill, Courtney Persinger and Weintraub voting in favor. Councilman James Ealy was absent.

Seven council members spoke against the measure, citing the trash bags' benefits or the need to respect the committee process.

Councilman Jack E. Harrison said the idea should have been brought up during committee sessions but could be raised at a later time.

Weintraub said he raised the idea during committee meetings but it was not taken seriously. He plans to raise the issue again in future meetings.

Although the new budget once again sets a record for revenues and spending -- it's up $2.2 million or 2.7 percent from the budget council approved one year ago, also a record -- it is also the third straight bare-bones budget.

City workers will go without across-the-board pay raises for the third consecutive year, and there are 24 fewer job positions than last year.

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