Birmingham City Council

This year’s Birmingham City Budget Finally Set for a Vote

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (Source: Sam Prickett)

Dec. 11, 2017 — Now that Mayor Randall Woodfin has had a chance to read and make comments on the budget, the Birmingham City Council is poised Tuesday to finally pass a budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which began on July 1.

During a joint meeting of the council’s committee of the whole and its budget and finance committee, the council reviewed Woodfin’s proposed changes to the budget — labeled on a handout as the “Mayor’s Compromise.” After some discussion over Woodfin’s decision to cut funding to the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority, councilors indicated they were prepared to pass the budget during the Dec. 12 council meeting.

Woodfin encouraged councilors to pass the budget during Tuesday’s meeting, saying that passing the budget would enable discussions for the FY 2019 budget to begin. “I’m ready to start having those conversations Wednesday,” he said.

Council President Valerie Abbott, along with Woodfin, emphasized that the budget was a necessary compromise. “I don’t think any of us is going to get up and dance a jig on this table to celebrate this budget,” Abbott said, “(But) I’m going to vote for it.”

Woodfin’s proposed changes to the budget involved cuts to the city’s law department ($254,163, bringing it down to $7.04 million), the mayor’s office ($606,731, down to $9.6 million) and the city’s World Trade designation ($137,500, bringing it down to $12,500). Funding for the city’s new Healthy Food Initiative is entirely cut out of the proposed budget.

New additions to the budget included $80,000 to the Sloss Furnaces Metal Arts Program, $150,000 to international business recruitment company Adah, and $50,000 to a parks and recreation boxing program. Woodfin’s proposed budget also added $1.27 million to funding for the Birmingham Board of Education, of which he is a former president.

BirminghamWatch will have a full breakdown of the budget after its passage.

The only significant point of contention surrounding the budget centered on the Birmingham Construction Industry Authority (BCIA), from which Woodfin’s budget would cut city funding entirely, save for expenditures that were made before passage of the budget.

The BCIA is a nonprofit organization created in 1990 to certify underutilized minority and disadvantaged business enterprises, as well as to provide business counsel and technical support services to those businesses.

Woodfin said that the BCIA had “failed” and that he had discovered “several red flags” while assessing the organization that he found “really alarming.” Woodfin did not specify during the meeting what those “red flags” were, and he left immediately after the meeting to attend a Doug Jones rally. Councilor Hunter Williams echoed Woodfin’s concerns, saying that “every single one” of the people he’d spoken to about the BCIA had described it as an “extreme failure.”

BCIA Executive Director Michael Bell said he was surprised by Woodfin’s statements. “I don’t think you received all of the information you would need to judge the organization,” he said. He noted that Woodfin had not met with the BCIA yet. “Let’s talk about trying things differently,” he said.

Woodfin said he was open to discussion, but it wouldn’t change his stance on the budget. He said the city had not been seeing a return on investment from the BCIA, which had been slated to receive $300,000 of city funds. He also noted that the BCIA has other funding sources that will keep it open without the city’s participation.

“I’ll never make a recommendation to you that I can’t stand by,” Woodfin told the council at the end of the discussion.

The budget will be the first item considered when the Birmingham City Council meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning