Mayor Randall Woodfin presented his proposed FY 2020 budget to the Birmingham City Council Tuesday, pointing to changes in city funding for education and councilors’ discretionary projects. At $451 million, the budget is the city’s largest to date — although, as Woodfin emphasized, several major financial requirements resulted in a “lean” approach to appropriating funding.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Woodfin highlighted what he called the “moral obligations” of the budget — fully funding the city’s long-underfunded pension liability and dedicating $8 million to street paving in all nine council districts. “The only disappointment I’ve had so far in this budget was that I wanted $10 million (for street paving),” Woodfin said. “But the pension said no, so we got to $8 million.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Woodfin spent significant time explaining to councilors his decision to cut certain “pet project” line items from the budget, arguing that this would be offset by $50,000 increases to their individual discretionary funds.
Woodfin’s proposed budget cut funding to a handful of organizations and events, including the Agape House, Children’s Village, Shadowlawn Cemetery, Magic City Smooth Jazz, the Ballard House, Bride Ministries, Red Mountain Park, Build Up Ensley, the Northeast YMCA and the Joseph House, among others.
No Money for Party With a Purpose
But Woodfin specifically chose to focus on District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt’s Party with a Purpose, an annual event held in Ensley since 2007 that offers health, recreational and entertainment resources to residents. That event has typically received $50,000 from each year’s general fund; in the FY 2020, it receives nothing.
Woodfin told Hoyt that his administration supports Party with a Purpose, but argued that if other councilors wanted to replicate the idea for their own districts, it would be financially untenable.
“This increase in discretionary money gives you the power to support individual organizations you want in your districts or citywide,” he said. “So in that regard, we think this is an extreme olive branch to the council.”
Hoyt remained silent during and after Woodfin’s presentation.
Changes in Money for Education
Woodfin also pointed to the changes his budget makes to education. While the FY 2019 budget saw $3,247,500 appropriated under the line item “Board of Education – Other,” the FY 2020 proposed budget dropped that number to $1 million, with $2 million going instead to the Birmingham Promise Educational Initiative.
Woodfin said that the “Board of Education – Other” line item essentially amounted to a “blank check” to the Birmingham Board of Education. While the Board of Education will still have discretion over the $1 million in that line item, Woodfin said that the $2 million to Birmingham Promise Educational Initiative represented an opportunity for his administration “to have a direct impact on students.”
That program would provide Birmingham juniors and seniors with paid apprenticeships, Woodfin said, calling it “probably the biggest apprenticeship program this city or any city its size has ever seen in America.”
“We believe this is a legacy for this entire city,” he said. “We want this to exist well past this administration and this council.”