People's Budget Birmingham

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People's Budget Birmingham is a coalition focused on giving you a say in how the city spends your taxes, supporting budget transparency, and creating policies to implement a participatory budgeting process.

After the murder of George Floyd, and the actions that arose around the nation in June 2020, People's Budget Birmingham was founded by eight local organizations. Those organizations include Black Lives Matter Birmingham, Adelante Alabama, SWEET Alabama, Dynamite Hill-Smithfield Community Land Trust, Birmingham Earth Coalition, DSA Birmingham, When We Fight, and Faith & Works.

People's Priorities Report

In August 2020 they created a survey to gather Birmingham residents budgetary priorities for the City of Birmingham's Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget. On August 31, 2020 they released a People's Priorities Report. The report included the results from 872 residents, which is 2.7 times more survey results than the City of Birmingham received for the Impediments to Fair Housing Choice study they released in May 2020.

The top four priorities listed in the report are 1) child and youth development, 2) food security, 3) alternative criminal justice models, 4) routine mental healthcare and wellness. The bottom four priorities listed in the report are 1) parking and traffic enforcement, 2) city attorney's office, 3) municipal court, 4) police department and law enforcement.

FY2021 Budget Controversy

On August 18, 2020, the Mayor of Birmingham released his proposed FY21 budget that included furloughing hundreds of city employees, while increasing the line item for the Birmingham Police Department by $11.2 million.

During the Birmingham City Council's public hearing on the FY21 budget on August 31, 2020, People's Budget Birmingham submitted the People's Priorities Report to the Birmingham City Council.

On September 16, 2020, in a discussion between the Mayor of Birmingham and the Board of Directors of the Birmingham Public Library (BPL), Mayor Randall Woodfin stated that the Birmingham Public Library would only receive $6.2 million from the FY21 budget, significantly less than the $12.8 million listed in the proposed FY21 budget that was publicly released in August by the Mayor of Birmingham. This resulted in the Birmingham Public Library furloughing 158 employees due to insufficient funding.

After the funding cuts were announced, People's Budget Birmingham worked with BPL patrons and library employees from around Jefferson County to advocate for the City of Birmingham to amend the proposed FY21 budget to prevent the furloughs and library closures. Many Birmingham residents, which included clergy, librarians, neighborhood association officers, and other members of People's Budget Birmingham, were prevented from entering Birmingham City Hall when they tried to attend the following Birmingham City Council meeting.

After being locked out of the previous City Council meeting, dozens of Birmingham residents showed up to the September 30, 2020, City Council meeting to speak out in opposition to the proposed FY21 budget. The meeting ended up lasting over 5 hours. During the meeting the Birmingham City Council passed the Mayor's proposed FY21 budget 6-3, with zero amendments to the budget. As a result of the significant backlash to the budget cuts to the Birmingham Public Library system, in December 2020, the Birmingham City Council unanimously approved granting an additional $4.58 million to the library system.

2021 pension bill

In March 2021, People's Budget Birmingham released a white paper on the social and economic effects of HB-510, a bill introduced into the Alabama State House of Representatives by Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-51) during the 2021 Alabama legislative session. The bill had the backing of Mayor Woodfin's office. People's Budget Birmingham published a white paper claiming the proposed changes would have a disproportionately negative effect on Black families, women, and resident with disabilities. The bill passed the House by a 24-2 vote and passed unanimously in the Alabama State Senate. It was adopted as Act of Alabama No. 2021-245 with Governor Ivey's signature on April 20.

Proposed Public Library Closures

On June 29, 2021 the Birmingham City Council approved the Mayor's proposed FY22 budget. The approved FY2022 budget was the largest budget in Birmingham history, yet only included $13.2 million for the Birmingham Public Library system, a $2.1 million decrease from the FY2020 budget. After the passage of the FY2022 budget, CBS42 published an article stating that "Since [Woodfin] took office, library spending under Woodfin has gone down about 28%, a decrease of just over $4 million..."

In September 2021, after the 2021 municipal election, Mayor Randall Woodfin sat down for an interview with Roy S. Johnson from AL.com. During the interview Mayor Woodfin stated "As a former school board member, I watched the whole process of combining schools, closing one or closing two... our library system needs to make some very tough unpopular decisions... I want people to understand the city of Birmingham has limited tax dollars. At a certain point, if it comes down to it, we’re willing to make tough, unpopular decisions..." On Friday, October 8, 2021, the President of the Birmingham Public Library Board of Trustees, Eunice Rogers, sent out a letter to BPL staff which stated, "In September [2020] 158 BPL employees were furloughed[.] This reduction in staff along with COVID-19 severely limited the ability to provide services... Now we are challenged with supporting Mayor Woodfin's vision of decreasing the number of Birmingham Public Library physical locations. After careful consideration, the BPL Board of Trustees recommends the permanent closure of the East Ensley, Ensley, North Avondale, and Titusville Branch Libraries..." During the weekend this news spread so quickly throughout Birmingham that it prompted President Rogers to release a follow up letter on Monday, October 11, 2021 which stated, "...the item concerning recommendation for closure of certain BPL Library branches is not ready to be discussed at the October Library Board of Trustees meeting and said item is being removed from the agenda..." Additionally, Mayor Woodfin accused President Rogers of “playing games.” During the October 2021 Library Board meeting, despite the item being taken off the agenda, dozens of Birmingham residents showed up, including members of People's Budget Birmingham, asking for the opportunity to speak about the issue. All 16 speakers spoke about the importance of public libraries in Birmingham, as asked the board to refrain from shutting down any of the 18 library branches. The Chair of the Long Range Planning Commission for the Birmingham Public Library responded by stating “We have issues that are related to facilities... We have issues that are related to our budget." She also told the public on multiple occasions that the proposed library closures are a result of the decreasing library budget from the City of Birmingham, and made calls for the City of Birmingham to increase their contribution to the Birmingham Public Library system during a joint meeting with the Birmingham City Council.

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