2018 Birmingham budget
The 2017-2018 Birmingham budget includes the operating budget for the City of Birmingham for the fiscal year July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018 as well as a capital projects budget. The Birmingham City Council approved the budget on December 12, 2017.
Mayor William Bell submitted a proposed FY2018 budget on May 16, 2017. The 2013-2017 City Council failed to pass the budget before the new 2017-2021 Birmingham City Council was sworn in on October 24. The incoming council voted to table discussions with lame-duck Mayor William Bell and take up the matter again after Randall Woodfin took office on November 28. Until the new budget was passed, the city continued to operate under the 2017 operating budget.
Bell's proposed budget
The budget proposal submitted by Mayor Bell on May 16 totaled approximately $428 million, or about $3 million more than the $424,858,869 2017 Birmingham budget passed by the Birmingham City Council, but also around $3 million less than was actually spent the previous year. Counting unbudgeted spending and actual reported revenues of only $421.8 million, the city finished FY2017 on a deficit, which was made up by transferring around $10 million in capital from the city's fund balance.
The Mayor's proposal included a 5% merit raise for eligible city employees along with an across-the-board 1% cost of living adjustment. He proposed the same raises the previous year, but only the 1% COLA was passed. The operational budget for the Birmingham Police Department remained unchanged, but the budget proposal earmarked $1.5 million for new vehicles and $300,000 for a community policing program. For the Birmingham Department of Public Works, $1.5 million was allocated to continue "Operation Green Wave" and another $1.5 million for demolition of condemned buildings. Special funding for Birmingham City Schools in the city's budget included $500,000 for a proposed reading initiative. Another $500,000 was allocated to fund the city's "Healthy Food Initiative", which provides vouchers for groceries for low-income families.
$16.6 million of the 2018 budget was allocated for debt service, and $11.1 million is earmarked for transportation. City owned properties, including Railroad Park and the Birmingham Zoo are set to split $4.8 million in appropriations while $4.2 million was set aside for contracted organizations, including the UAB Blazers football team, the Vulcan Park Foundation, REV Birmingham. The Magic City Classic is set to receive $705,000 alone. Another $2.1 million was included for "other services," which includes city-funded events and marketing.
The mayor's office itself, with a full staff of 101 employees, projects an operating budget of $10,205,618. The Birmingham City Clerk's office was set to receive $1,975,262, including $40,000 for new furnishings. The mayor's proposal for funding City Council operations at $3.65 million includes $417,985 for consulting fees, a 39% decrease from 2017. It does not include the higher cost of compensation for City Council members set to go into effect in January 2018.
The capital projects budget included outlays for development of the Ensley Public Safety Municipal Complex, the OnePratt Superblock, the CrossPlex, Maxine Herring Parker Bridge, the A. G. Gaston Motel restoration and other development of the Civil Rights District. Also included was $9 million for street resurfacing, and $10 million for park renovations, including work at Legion Field.
The first Birmingham City Council hearing on the proposed budget was held on June 14. The meeting began late for lack of a quorum, and was not attended by the Mayor. Birmingham Public Library president Gwendolyn Welch made an appeal for additional funds for repairs at the Central Branch. Bill Cather spoke on behalf of the Friends of Rickwood to ask for compensation for lost revenue due to the field's emergency closure. Roebuck Springs neighborhood president Frank Hamby petitioned the city to demolish the former Banks High School and resident Jerry Tate asked the council to increase funding to Birmingham City Schools. Council members expressed sympathy, but no actions were taken.
The Council's "Committee of the Whole" continued to debate revisions to the proposed budget. A draft circulated prior to their July 26 meeting showed reductions of $5.6 million in parks and recreation finding and $250,000 in outlays to the police department. It also showed increases of $1.3 million for weed abatement and $1.8 million for home demolition. When that version was released to the press, Council President Jonathan Austin lambasted it as "fake news," saying that it was only a draft. A more up-to-date council budget was released at that time, showing increased funding for Birmingham City Schools offset by cuts in the Mayor's office, and the city's departments of law, community development and finance.
The Mayor's office countered with a new proposal, given to the Committee of the Whole on August 30. Overall the later version added $1.3 million in expenditures, including increases for the Birmingham Public Library and for city schools, as well as a "longevity pay" boost for city workers.
Bell called a meeting with the Committee of the Whole for the afternoon of September 5, but then did not attend due to urgent preparations to host evacuees from Hurricane Irma. Without discussion, the committee voted to put its version of the budget on the agenda for the regular September 12 Council meeting. Ultimately, with no compromise reached, the budget was tabled to be taken up by the incoming 2017-2021 Birmingham City Council, which was sworn in on October 24. The new council, in turn, voted to hold off on budget meetings until incoming Mayor Randall Woodfin took office on November 28.
Woodfin campaigned on reducing waste, especially in the Mayor's office, and promised to conduct a full audit of city departments within 100 days of taking office. During a Council Committee of the Whole meeting on November 28 Council President Valerie Abbott requested that the Mayor's office submit budget priorities in the near term. The committee scheduled a follow-up meeting for December 14.
- Edgemon, Erin (May 16, 2017) "Birmingham's proposed $428 million budget includes employee raises, $1.5 million more for police." The Birmingham News
- Prickett, Sam & Cody Owens (May 25, 2017) "Breaking Down Bell’s Budget" Weld for Birmingham
- Edgemon, Erin (June 15, 2017) "Additional funding for Birmingham libraries, education, roads sought during budget hearing." The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (August 1, 2017) "Birmingham council proposes cuts to police, parks and recreation budgets." The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (August 1, 2017) "Birmingham council president: Police, parks and recreation budget cuts were 'fake news'." The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (August 31, 2017) "Birmingham mayor, council wrangling over 2018 budget." The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (September 6, 2017) "Birmingham mayor no-show for budget meeting with city council." The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (November 30, 2017) "'We have departments that are suffering:' Birmingham budget talks to begin again." The Birmingham News
- Budget Office at birminghamal.gov