By Cody Owens
This week, the Birmingham City Council unanimously adopted the FY 2018 General Fund Budget and the accompanying items that appeared on Tuesday’s agenda.
To date, it is the largest budget that the city of Birmingham had to work with at $428 million, a number that had increased by approximately $3.1 million from the previous year’s adopted budget of $424,858,869.
This year’s budget was passed 164 days after the fiscal year began on July 1, 2017 — last year the budget was adopted 61 days after the fiscal year. This does not mean that the city is not able to operate and pay for various services, obviously. Rather the city operates from the previously year’s budget in order to be in accordance with expected fiscal responsibility and to not spend beyond its available means. Capital projects are funded on an individual basis and are approved by the city council.
As per the City of Birmingham’s Budget Office: “It should be noted that legally adopted annual budgets are not required for Special Revenue and Capital Projects Funds. Budgets for these funds are approved by the City Council on an individual project basis. Formal budgetary integration is employed for the General Fund as a management control device. Such integration is not deemed necessary for Debt Service Funds because effective budgetary control is alternatively achieved through the general obligation indenture provisions.”
Each year, discussions between the mayor and the city council typically start in January regarding the budget for the upcoming year. With the new mayoral administration taking office, this year was a little different. There were several changes that were made to the budget after the October 3, 2017 runoff election, however, it still partially reflected the previous administration’s priorities.
The council made sure to include cost of living and longevity pay for employees in the budget that passed, meaning they will get that money in time for Christmas. The breakdown for longevity pay is as follows:
· For ten years of service, the amount is $300.00,
· From eleven through twenty years of service, the amount is $600.00,
· For twenty-one or more years of service, the amount is $900.00.
Below are a few more changes that were implemented into the FY 2018 General Fund Budget:
During Monday’s joint Budget and Finance/Committee of the Whole meeting, Councilors discussed the cuts to the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority (BCIA), an autonomous entity that has, in the past, received funding from the city. The BCIA saw a 50 percent reduction in the amount of funding it will receive — being cut from $350,000 to $175,000 to pay only for services rendered. Mayor Randall Woodfin said this is because the city has not seen a proper return on its investment and there have been a chorus of complaints over the years.
“There are certain expectations that the 10 of us should have for participation,” Woodfin said. “I think they’ve failed that mission. I’d like to go in a new direction. I won’t leave you out of that conversation. But in a space of building capacity, and a level of participation that works for this city, it needs to be better.”
Councilor Hunter Williams agreed and said he has received multiple complaints about the BCIA practices.
“How do you measure the BCIA success?” Williams asked Michael Bell, BCIA executive director and brother of former Mayor William Bell. “All the people I’ve talked to say the BCIA has been an extreme failure. And I’m talking about huge companies and mom and pop companies. I have not heard a good review to date.
The complaints I’ve heard are people who have gone through the program. It’s shocking.”
Other councilors voiced displeasure with the level of minority inclusion that has been facilitated through the organization.
“We need to do more for minority business,” Councilor Steven Hoyt said. “BCIA really can’t do much of nothing. The money we give is not the only money BCIA receives. I don’t want folks to think we’re doing something drastic here. I’ve been in those meetings. But it’s the meeting after the meeting where people are complaining about there not being any work. Atlanta solved their minority participation within the city. That’s what we need to do if we’re going to make a difference.”
Notable increases in funding for FY 2018 General Fund Budget:
· (Transfer) Legion Field Improvements: +$100,000.00
· Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame: +$81,672.00
· Rickwood Field: +$81,000.00
· Ruffner Mountain Agency: +$25,000.00
· R.E.S.P.E.C.T: +$25,000.00
· JCCEO Adult Services: +$10,000.00
· Birmingham Board of Education: +$1,275,000.00
Additional notable reductions from originally proposed budget:
· Law Department: -$254,163.00
· Mayor’s Office: -$606,731.00
· Information Management Services: -$199,163.00
· Human Resources: -$800,000.00
· Sloss Furnace: -$25,000.00
· Professional fees legislative expense: -$287,077.00
· Healthy Food Incentive: -$500,000.00
· Animal Control: -$25,000.00
· Birmingham Urban League: -$95,999.00
· Alabama Center for Architecture: -$35,000.00
· North Birmingham Environmental: -$100,000.00
· UNESCO: -$50,000.00
· Community Affairs Committee: -$25,000.00
· Nonviolence Initiative (Mayor’s office): -$100,000.00