PARKERSBURG - Republican mayoral candidate Sharyn Tallman is pledging to reduce the city's user fee if elected. But incumbent Mayor Bob Newell is wondering how.
Tallman has pledged to reduce the user fee by 50 cents, making it $2 a week. The councilwoman said she can reduce the fee without cutting services and also provide allocations for non-government agencies.
Tallman said the fee can be reduced by not duplicating purchases. A better-controlled budget can decrease the user fee, she said.
"According to financials, we have plenty of money in the bank," she said.
"If you use the money from bank accounts to reduce fees, you have to find that same money again next year," Newell said. "Then when you run out, you have to increase the fee, if that money even existed to begin with."
Tallman has suggested the user fee could be offset by going after uncollected and outstanding B&O taxes. She is calling for an audit of B&O taxes. "Everyone needs to pay their fair share," she said.
"Her story changes as needed, apparently," Newell said. "This is why public debates are important. Again, she has remained silent on any viable solution since the recession regarding revenue even though it was her duty by city charter as a council person. My plans have always been on paper and made public in meetings."
Newell also said he'd like to see a reduction in fees.
He said earlier this year he requested council eliminate the Floodwall Fee. The fee generates $120,000-$130,000 a year, about a half percent of the city's $25.5 million budget. It's paid almost exclusively by businesses and residents in Tallman's district. City council, including Tallman, rejected repealing the fee.
Instead, council voted to have the proposal discussed by both the finance and personnel committees. To date, neither has met to discuss the proposal.
Council later used $50,000 (slated for the humane society) and the money from the Floodwall Fee to provide city employees a 20-cent-an-hour pay raise. Tallman was one of only two council members to vote against the idea.
Tallman also wants the city to return funding to outside agencies. She said in the past as much as $125,000 had been set aside by the city for outside agencies.
"Those agencies contribute important services to our community," she said. "In the past when we have had less money to work with we were able to fund those services. It's important to bring them back to the table."
In March, prior to a meeting by council to approve the budget, Tallman prepared a list of proposed cuts designed to restore $25,000 to the Humane Society of Parkersburg and give $25,000 to the Wood County Recreation Commission. Her proposal died for lack of a second.
Newell said Tallman's proposed budget changes to fund those two outside agencies were the result of cutting equipment and operating money from a few departments.
Tallman said it was "duplicating purchases."
Tallman dismissed the suggestion she was proposing a reduction in taxes (reduce the user fee) and an increase in spending (funding outside agencies).
"If anything, it would be a redistribution," she said. "But I do believe we have plenty of money."
"In the past, we have had smaller budgets, and we are still able to help out with nonprofits and other nonprofit community organizations. The money is there," Tallman said.