2011 Birmingham budget
The Fiscal Year 2011 Birmingham budget includes the general fund operating budget for the City of Birmingham for the fiscal year July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011. A proposal was submitted by Mayor William Bell to the Birmingham City Council by May 20, 2010. After weeks of deliberations, a revised budget was returned to the Mayor for consideration, and his response was debated on June 29 at a special meeting of the Council's Budget Committee before being passed by an 8-0 vote of the Council on July 6. The city continued to operate under the 2010 Birmingham budget until the new one was passed.
The city began working in April with the UAB School of Business to arrive at reliable projections for annual revenues. It was assumed that additional cuts to operating expenses and new sources of revenue would be required to insure a balanced budget. Among the cuts discussed were funds for non-profit organizations, staff buyouts, and some reduced services. Possible revenue initiatives included fees for garbage collection and police reports.
After receiving requests for funding from city departments, Bell reported that projected costs for 2011 totaled $400 million while projected revenues would be only $350 million, requiring significant cuts.
On May 17 Bell addressed all city employees at Boutwell Auditorium, informing them of an across-the-board 10% pay cut which will be submitted as part of the 2011 budget. Those cuts were an effort to prevent layoffs, but early retirement and possibly furloughs could become necessary. On the other hand, the cuts could be restored if revenues improved over the course of the budget year. Bell later asked the Library and Department of Parks & Recreation for recommendations of specific branches that could be closed, perhaps temporarily, to help balance the budget.
The City Council, meeting in committee to discuss the budget, focused on efforts to prevent pay cuts, restore funding to some outside agencies, and avoid the closure of library branches and recreation centers. Among their suggestions to preserve a balanced budget were to take more funds from the city's savings (to be repaid once revenue collections improved) and also to be more optimistic in making projections for 2011 revenues. Additional revenues would be generated from increasing the tipping fees at city owned landfills and additional savings would be realized by scheduling seven unpaid holidays for city employees (rather than pay cuts) and reducing hours at libraries and recreation centers (rather than closing them).
Meanwhile, an error was discovered in the implementation of the city's electronic timecard system, implemented by Tech Providers under Larry Langford's administration. The system converted Birmingham Fire & Rescue Service employees salaries into hourly rates in a way that amounted to a 20–25% increase in compensation without budgetary approval or the consent of the Jefferson County Personnel Board. The error cost the city as much as $12 million per year, and the prospect of correcting the error was viewed by firefighters and their families as a severe blow on top of the proposed 10% pay cut.
The budget that passed totaled $349.6 million, or $75 million less than the 2010 budget, and authorized Mayor Bell to obtain a $15 million bank loan. The measure passed by an 8-0 vote, with Maxine Parker absent.
A mid-year update, following the early-retirement process, indicated that the city would have approximately $9 million more in revenues than expenditures by the end of the fiscal year. Mayor Bell recommended restoring funding to Birmingham AIDS Outreach, Kid One Transport, Meals on Wheels, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, and the Norwood Resource Center, all of which had been eliminated from the approved budget. He also recommended a 2.5% pay raise for city employees and said that it would not be necessary to draw $8 million from the $15 million line of credit previously approved.
The City Council elected to wait until more concrete numbers were received in February 2011 before approving any additional spending.
- Bryant, Joseph D. (April 21, 2010) "Council passes Bell's plan." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (April 26, 2010) "Mayor Bell seeks thinner budget for Birmingham." Birmingham News
- Whitmire, Kyle (May 17, 2010) "Bell proposes 10 percent across the board pay cut." Second Front
- Whitmire, Kyle (June 29, 2010) "Langford-era payroll goof cost Birmingham $12m per year" Second Front
- Bryant, Joseph D. (June 29, 2010) "Birmingham Mayor William Bell to respond to City Council's proposed budget Thursday." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (June 6, 2010) "Birmingham City Council passes $349.6 million budget for 2011." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (January 4, 2010) "Birmingham mayor to report surplus in city's budget at midyear." Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (January 24, 2010) "Birmingham City Council rejects Mayor William Bell's plan to spend surplus." Birmingham News