Tag: Birmingham budget
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.
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.
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.
The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve the installation of 10 license plate recognition cameras as part of a deal with Alabama Power. The utility will install and maintain the cameras at a monthly cost of $2,291.67 to the city.
The council passed the item unanimously but not without some public criticism. Keith O. Williams, a resident representing the community action group People’s Budget Birmingham, told councilors that his organization had written to all nine councilors Monday requesting a public hearing on the item but had received no response.
The group was concerned, Williams said, over “excessive use of funds for the police department” during a year in which the city is facing a significant revenue shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.
Mayor Randall Woodfin defended his plan for Birmingham’s education budget at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, arguing that shifting millions of dollars from city schools to his proposed Birmingham Promise Initiative would allow the city to invest directly in students.
Woodfin’s proposed FY 2020 operating budget would cut the city’s funding for Birmingham City Schools from $3.2 million to $1 million. It would place that $2 million into a fund for the Birmingham Promise Education Initiative, a public-private partnership that would provide juniors and seniors in Birmingham city schools with paid apprenticeships as well as dual enrollment opportunities with Lawson State and Jefferson State community colleges. The program also would offer scholarships for city school graduates to attend public colleges and universities in Alabama.
Woodfin’s proposed cut to the schools’ budget has gotten mixed reviews. The city board of education in a letter to the mayor and council expressed support for the program but asked that the $2 million cut be reconsidered in the future.
Some council members today expressed support for the program and said it would be a benefit to Birmingham’s students; others were wary and said they needed details about the plan before being asked to vote on it. Read more.
On Tuesday, Mayor Randall Woodfin will unveil his proposed FY 2020 budget to the Birmingham City Council.
It will follow this year’s $436 million budget, the city’s largest ever and the first that the Woodfin administration had overseen from the ground up. That budget implemented a new “zero-based” strategy, which meant that appropriations were based on need rather than the previous year’s budget.
In March, Woodfin compared the FY 2020 budget to a “need-only Christmas,” where socks, not toys, are the gifts. “That’s how this budget’s going to be,” he said. Read more.
For the first time in several years, Birmingham’s city government will enter the new fiscal year with a budget already in place. During Tuesday morning’s regular meeting, the Birmingham City Council voted unanimously to approve the city’s FY 2019 budget, nearly two weeks before the fiscal year’s July 1 start.
That timely passage of the $436 million budget — the city’s largest to date — represents a victory for first-term Mayor Randall Woodfin and the current council. Budget delays in recent years often had been viewed as symptoms of a communications breakdown between Woodfin’s predecessor, former Mayor William Bell, and the council. But speaking after Tuesday’s meeting, Woodfin said the new budget represents a renewed focus on governmental cooperation.
“Collectively, the message we’ve sent today is, ‘We know how to pass a budget on time, thereby knowing how to work together, negotiate, compromise and communicate with each other,” he said Read more.
Mayor Randall Woodfin revealed his proposal for the city’s FY 2019 budget during Tuesday’s meeting of the Birmingham City Council.
At just more than $436 million, it’s the city’s largest budget to date, clocking in at nearly $7 million more than that of the previous year. As the first budget proposal created entirely during Woodfin’s time as mayor, it is the clearest representation of his nascent administration’s economic goals to date.
“It’s a new day in Birmingham,” Woodfin told the council, “not just through the budget process, but with the way we spend and oversee the tax dollars entrusted to us.” The budget, he added, “represents some difficult and responsible decisions that must be made to support our priorities,” most significantly neighborhood revitalization. Read more.
Dec. 12, 2017 — The Birmingham City Council Tuesday approved a budget for the 2018 fiscal year, more than five months after that fiscal year actually started.
“We have a budget!” proclaimed Council President Valerie Abbott after the unanimous vote, drawing a standing ovation from many who had gathered in the council chambers.
The delay was the result, at first, of an apparent breakdown in communications between former Mayor William Bell and the council. After the Oct. 3 municipal elections, the council further delayed passing the budget until newly elected officials — Mayor Randall Woodfin and the three new councilors — could have their input on the budget.
Two weeks into Woodfin’s administration, his office delivered his budget “compromise,” which trimmed significant amounts earmarked for city departments and culture and recreation funding.
While most councilors expressed a sense of relief about the passage of a budget, the specifics of the budget drew a more measured response.
President Pro Tem Jay Roberson described himself as “elated” that the budget had passed and praised Woodfin for his influence.
“I know he was ready to get this behind him, too, and ready to move forward to his next fiscal year for consideration,” he said. “There are some areas that I think need some work, but you can still make adjustments in that process as needed.”
Speaking from the dais, District 1 Councilor Lashunda Scales thanked the mayor, but with muted praise. “The mayor knows that all of our expectations are very high with this incoming (2019) budget, and I think mine are probably superlative above,” she said, adding that, “in the spirit of willingness to work with everyone, I didn’t get all the things (I wanted).” But, she said, she was “looking forward” to the next set of budget discussions.
“It was six months overdue,” Abbott said after the meeting, calling the delay “embarrassing.”
“I would have agreed to almost anything to get our departments back functioning correctly and getting our employees their salary treatments that they desperately need at this time of year,” she added. “Not all of us like the budget, but we never all get what we want. That’s part of life. We’re used to that idea. We have to prioritize; my priority was to get the budget passed. Next year, things might be different.” Read more.