Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Council Waits on Budget Amendments as New Spending Plan Remains in Limbo

Councilor Carol Clarke speaks during a Birmingham City Council meeting June 25, 2024. (Birmingham Council livestream)

The March computer network disruption that interfered with the city of Birmingham’s operations for weeks caused further confusion Tuesday, with the City Council voting to delay approval of several budget amendments.

Because of the network disruption — which several news agencies have reported as a ransomware attack — city officials have been unable to present a budget for the 2025 fiscal year by the state-mandated deadline of July 1. City leaders have used the $554 million 2024 budget as a stand-in until the actual spending plan is available.

Councilor Carol Clarke on Tuesday flagged the 15 budget amendments for discussion. She said her understanding was that the city would automatically default to the 2024 budget. If that is the case, she said, why would the council approve the amendments, which call for the same 2024 spending levels?

“I guess my question is, ‘Do we need to formally adopt this when it’s defaulted into already?’” Clarke said.

Mayor Randall Woodfin said approving the amendments was the idea of Council President Darrell O’Quinn.

O’Quinn told his colleagues that the budget will go to the 2024 spending plan whether the council approves the amendments or delays the action until after July 1.

Councilor Valerie Abbott asked whether the mayor still believed the actual 2025 budget still would be ready for review in September.

“Hope is the key word,” Woodfin said.

Councilors Crystal Smitherman and J.T. Moore said they wanted to confirm that the council will have time in 2024 to add amendments to the actual budget that will reflect their priorities and revenue changes for 2025.

The mayor replied, “Absolutely.”

“Your president said submit last year’s budget. I know that was shared with each of you, and there was no pushback on any of that. We also shared that, when things will be reconciled, there will be a process for amendments. Whatever pleases you, whatever you want to do today, please let me know,” Woodfin said.

Clarke offered a motion to delay the vote on the amendments to get a better idea of what the actual budget will look like. Her initial proposal was to wait 60 days, but after discussion the council extended it to 12 weeks.

Clarke’s motion to delay the vote passed 4-2, with Smitherman and Councilor Clinton Woods voting no. Councilors Wardine Alexander and LaTonya Tate were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

In other business, the council voted to rescind $150,000 meant to fund an expansion of the One Place Metro Family Justice Center. According to city staff, One Place will be unable to deliver the project under the terms of the agreement.

City staff said the vote on the expansion will not affect One Place’s current operations. The organization provides services to victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.