Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin presented his “whopping” FY 2023 budget proposal to the City Council on Tuesday, describing it as a reflection of “an unprecedented time of investment and growth” for the city.
The $517 million budget is up roughly $61.5 million from last year’s budget, which at the time was the city’s largest-ever. Most of that money, Woodfin said, came from increases in business tax revenues — particularly business license revenue, which are projected to rise $23 million compared to last year. As a result, Woodfin said, “appropriations are up across the board.”
Roughly two-thirds of the budget would go toward personnel costs — a priority for Woodfin’s administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Neighborhood revitalization, another of the mayor’s key issues, is also a focus, with $2 million earmarked for blight removal, $1.5 million for weed abatement and $15 million for street resurfacing.
The biggest increase in revenue would go to the Birmingham Police Department, which would receive $118.5 million — up $18 million from last year. While Woodfin acknowledged that some community groups have expressed “concerns … about over-increased policing,” he said that he also had to take into account requests from neighborhoods for more police, as well as requests from police officers “who want, need and deserve more resources.”
“When you are the mayor and the City Council, you don’t have the luxury to just listen to the loudest group,” he said. “This budget reflects listening to all three (groups).”
“We’re not ignoring the local or national cries about police reform and police accountability measures,” Woodfin added. “The numbers may not show it, but within this budget what we’re doing is continuing to find policing alternatives for lower-level calls and crimes for others to address as well as to continue the training of our officers to be in a position to address mental health calls, because that’s important.”
The increased BPD budget comes despite police personnel numbers remaining the same as last year. Officers on staff would receive a $6.6 million increase in salaries and wages — part of an ongoing effort to battle attrition — as well as $2.7 million for overtime wages during the World Games, which will take place in July. “You talk about being a city that is open to tourism and sports and entertainment, and we keep getting all these new things,” Woodfin said. “That requires police presence and a significant amount of overtime.” The BPD will also receive $1.3 million for new uniforms.
Woodfin said he anticipated some in the community would object, “but I’m going to stand on it, because it’s the right thing to do.”
Public works and fire also received increases in Woodfin’s proposed budget — of $11 million and $5 million, respectively.
Woodfin’s budget also calls for capital projects to become “an actual department” of the mayor’s office, allocating $4.2 million toward that proposed department.
Transportation would see an increase in funding for the Bus Rapid Transit program (from $250,000 last year to $1 million this year) and for the VIA on-demand transit service (from $500,000 to $1.2 million). The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, meanwhile, would receive $10 million from the city.
But “the most exciting thing” about his budget proposal, Woodfin told councilors, was its focus on the city’s youth, including $2 million to Woodfin’s signature Birmingham Promise scholarship/apprenticeship program and $210,000 for a summer jobs program.
The budget would allocate $1 million to place mental health professionals in all 43 Birmingham City Schools, while another $1 million would go toward a “robust” financial literacy curriculum for students in grades K-12.
Woodfin also promised $1 million toward “safe haven” programs at recreation centers across the city. “Summer is approaching,” he said. “In two weeks, our children will be out of school. We have to imagine at least some of our rec centers to be safe havens for our children … They don’t have to choose the streets to hang out. They can come into one of our facilities, whether it’s programs or resources or just for fun. … So we want to extend the hours, whether it’s the weekday, weekend (or) summer.”
Woodfin’s proposal still has to be approved by the council, which voted Tuesday to set two public budget hearings — one on Tuesday, June 6, at 5:30 p.m., and another on Thursday, June 16, at 5:30 p.m.
The full budget proposal can be read below and can also be accessed at birminghamal.gov/2023budget.