Due to conservative budgeting and higher-than-expected sales tax revenues, a recent audit revealed that the city of Birmingham had a $53.4 million surplus for the 2021 fiscal year.
On Tuesday morning, the City Council voted to spend $39.5 million of that surplus on a variety of items — most significantly a 5% across-the-board raise for all city employees.
The raise will cost the city $11.6 million this fiscal year and is pending approval from the Jefferson County Personnel Board, which is slated to meet in early April.
Woodfin also said he would be recommending in his budget proposal for the year beginning July 1 that city employees get merit raises of up to 5% in the next budget year, which could mean a raise of up to 10% for some city workers within the next four months.
Woodfin said the raises are part of the city saying “Thank you” to its employees, particularly for their work during the pandemic.
From the budget surplus, an additional $700,000 also will be allocated to worker’s compensation, while $80,000 will go toward medical exams for new and existing employees.
The council also voted to allocate $10 million of the surplus to street paving — one of Woodfin’s mayoral priorities — and $3 million to the World Games Foundation. The city’s equipment management department will receive $1.2 million for parts and fuel, while $275,000 has been set aside for renovations to council chambers, which Woodfin remarked “could use a little love.”
Half a million will be allocated to cybersecurity improvements, which Woodfin said “could not wait until July 1” due to a national surge in ransomware attacks on cities. A further $800,000 will be allocated to retention and recruitment efforts for the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service.
Trash Collection Upgrade
But the biggest new initiative to come from the surplus will come from $7 million allocated to buying 100,000 uniform trash bins, which will be distributed citywide, with an additional $3.75 million going to garbage trucks designed to pick up those bins. These bins will be distributed to different neighborhoods in phases, he said, and would be geotagged to prevent theft. Woodfin added that it would be difficult to predict when the bins would be available due to global supply-chain issues, but he said that, in the meantime, his office would work with the council on initiatives to educate the public about the new system.
Woodfin said that this surplus was a result of city leaders preparing for a worst-case scenario when the COVID-19 pandemic began. “We made some very tough, unpopular decisions within that (year’s) budget, but we were bracing for the worst, bracing for impact of not knowing what we would be able to collect in sales taxes, occupational taxes, business licenses, etc.,” he said. “Turns out, in several of those categories … things turned out better than they were projected to.”
“The good news is, we’re not spending all of it,” he added.
Here’s a full breakdown of how the surplus will be allocated:
- Across-the-board increase (5%): $11,630,975
- Worker’s comp: $700,000
- Medical exams: $80,000
- Gas, diesel, parts: $1.2 million
- World Games Foundation: $3 million
- City Council chambers renovations: $275,000
- Cybersecurity: $500,000
- BFRS retention and recruitment: $800,000
- Street paving: $10 million
- Uniform trash bins: $7 million
- Rolling stock (new garbage trucks): $3,745,000
- Other rolling stock: $600,000
- Remaining balance: $13,869,025