Homewood and Vestavia look for ways to cut costs

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - In an attempt to save money, Homewood and Vestavia Hills considered freezing city employee merit raises, longevity pay, and increasing health insurance costs, but the final decisions were different.

In Homewood, councilors voted to leave merit raises, longevity pay, and the city will pay more towards employees' health insurance. The city council meeting was packed with concerned employees, and they cheered after the vote. Mayor Scott McBrayer said Homewood has been fortunate to have strong revenue and reserve funds, and that should be passed along to employees.

"We haven't expanded the budget," said McBrayer, "We haven't tried to do anything to force the council to make tough decisions. We can do what we need to, and not hurt city employees by adopting the budget I've presented."

In Vestavia Hills, city councilors voted to freeze merit raises and longevity pay for one year. City employees will also be responsible for picking up additional health insurance fees. The changes will impact more than 100 city employees. Mayor Butch Zaragoza said the city has been impacted by decreasing sales tax revenue, and it was a tough decision to make.

"I think the employees are frustrated," said Zaragoza, "They were hit good with cost cuts. However, if you look throughout the country, they are laying people off, we tried to do everything we can to keep from laying people off."

The budgets for 2009-10 for both cities will go into effect Oct. 1.