Category: City of Birmingham

Council Postpones Vote on Holiday Pay, Says Woodfin Expects Them to Make Budget Decisions “Blindly”

Black Friday will be an unpaid holiday for Birmingham city employees after the City Council delayed a proposal by Mayor Randall Woodfin to pay employees out of city reserves.

In a last-minute addendum to Tuesday morning’s meeting agenda, Woodfin called for the city to take $807,333 out of the city’s general fund to restore the paid holiday, which had been nixed due to COVID-19-related budget cutbacks. Employees still will receive their regular paychecks next week but without payment for Nov. 27.

Councilors balked at Woodfin’s proposal because it was brought to them without warning and without details on the health of the reserve fund. One objected to the mayor’s asking the council to make major financial decisions while figuring out the budget numbers “on the back of a cocktail napkin.” Read more.

Birmingham Library Exec Returns to Work After One-Month Suspension

Birmingham Public Library Executive Director Floyd Council was back at work Friday after one month of being suspended without pay.

Council was suspended by the BPL board of trustees last month for undisclosed reasons. As with most details regarding Council’s employment, the board refused to provide details about the decision to the public. The board did not discuss Council during its regular meeting Nov. 10.

Multiple BPL employees confirmed Council’s return to the library Friday, though under condition of anonymity. Read more.

Woodfin Says Sale of Parking Decks Would Lessen COVID-19’s Economic Damage

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin says the proposed sale of several city-owned parking decks is an opportunity to lessen the economic damage done to the city by COVID-19 — including bringing back furloughed public library employees.

Woodfin said in an interview with BirminghamWatch that the city received an unsolicited offer from Birmingham Economic Development Partners LLC — a group founded last month by Shipt founder Bill Smith, according to paperwork filed in Jefferson County Probate Court — to purchase six of the city’s 11 parking decks for a total of $41 million.

If the sale is approved by the City Council, the city could receive that money in one lump sum in 60 days — which could go a long way toward offsetting the $63 million budget shortfall caused by COVID-19. Among other things, Woodfin says, the money would go toward reinstating library employees who were furloughed as a result of severe budget cuts.
Read more.

Nonprofits Adapt to Harsh Financial Conditions After Birmingham Budget Cuts

The FY 2021 budget passed Tuesday night by the Birmingham City Council contains a number of austerity measures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, which since March has stymied the local economy and caused the city’s business tax revenue to plunge.

The budget, which was approved by the council with no changes to Mayor Randall Woodfin’s original proposal, is nearly $50 million smaller than last year’s and cuts the city’s contributions to schools, libraries and public transit, among other departments.

Some of those changes have proven controversial, but other cuts — particularly those to external nonprofit organizations such as the Birmingham Zoo, Jones Valley Teaching Farm and Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve — went largely unquestioned even by opponents of Woodfin’s budget.

Leaders of those nonprofits say they were unsurprised by the cuts, and even before the budget’s passage they appeared resigned to the loss. Instead, faced with their own significant budget shortfalls, those organizations are adapting to survive a hostile, post-COVID landscape. Read more.

Work Begins to Take Down the Ramsay-McCormack Building, Façade Improvement Program Launched

Redevelopment on Ensley’s Ramsay-McCormack Building is finally underway, Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Thursday. The 10-story structure will be deconstructed and replaced with a five-story building constructed using salvaged materials from the original.

Woodfin’s announcement came the same day a city-run façade improvement pilot program was announced to target nine “priority redevelopment areas” in the city, including the Ensley Commercial Business District. Read more.

Birmingham Passes “Phantom” Budget, Unchanged From Woodfin’s Proposal

The discussion appeared to be over before Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting had even begun. Council members had disinterestedly trickled out of the afternoon’s budget workshop until only a voting minority of the nine-member council remained: Councilors Valerie Abbott, Steven Hoyt, Clinton Woods and Crystal Smitherman.

The remainder of the council, led by President William Parker, voted down Smitherman’s proposed amendments to the budget. They opted instead to approve it as proposed by Mayor Randall Woodfin, with Abbott joining them in that vote.

The budget has been controversial since Woodfin announced it last month. With the city facing a $63 million shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodfin made several significant cuts to its operating budget. He defended some of his cuts, such as those to the Birmingham school board and the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, arguing that those organizations would make up the loss via other funding sources. Other departments, including the library and parks and recreation, were given budget cuts that led to hundreds of full- and part-time city employees being furloughed.

Unchanged, Woodfin told residents, was his administration’s commitment to neighborhood revitalization, which had been one of the central promises of his campaign. His proposed budget continued to allocate $10 million for street paving, $1.5 million for dilapidated structure demolition and $1.25 million for weed abatement. His new Birmingham Promise Educational Initiative also continued to receive its $2 million. Read more.

Woodfin Schedules Oct. 1 Hearing on Birmingham Police Reforms

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has set an Oct. 1 hearing to discuss proposed police reforms.

The event is the culmination of a 90-day review by the public safety task force, a seven-member group appointed earlier this year to assess Birmingham Police Department policies. The task force also is requesting public input, inviting interested individuals to submit written or video proposals for new public safety policies.
Read more.

Library Board Furloughs 158 Workers Because of Budget Cuts

In a Friday afternoon emergency meeting, the Birmingham Public Library board of trustees voted unanimously to furlough 158 of the system’s 211 employees. The cutbacks were a response to city budget cuts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to Mayor Randall Woodfin’s recommendation to cut the library’s budget to less than half of last year’s amount.

The furloughs will be effective Sept. 25. Of the 158 furloughed employees, 91 are full-time and 67 are part-time employees.

Most of Friday afternoon’s meeting took place in a 90-minute, private executive session. The board did not reveal which employees would be furloughed or which library branches would be closed as a result. Read more.

Woodfin’s Revised Library Budget Lower Than Expected, With $3.6M Remaining Until June 30

The Birmingham Public Library now has its operating budget for fiscal year 2021 — and it’s much lower than expected, which means “tough decisions” lie ahead for the BPL board of trustees.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, trustees lamented the “moving target” they’d been given by Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office. The city’s overall budget has been greatly reduced as a result of reduced business tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The library first had been allocated $12.8 million in Woodfin’s proposed FY 2021 budget, which was bumped up shortly afterward to $15.3 million, bringing it roughly even with its operating budget from this year. Then, board members said, their city attorney had given them a third number that was less than half of that — $7.039 million.

The real number, Woodfin told board members and city councilors during a “last-minute” informational call Wednesday, is even less than that. The library’s total budget in his recommendation for FY 2021 is $6.2 million, he said — and it’s spent $2.6 million of that since July.

“I want everybody to hear it at the same time,” Woodfin says in a recording of the call obtained by BirminghamWatch. “Your remaining budget you have from October 1 to June 30 is $3.6 million — not a dollar more.” Read more.