Sacrifices from city employees needed to fix Birmingham budget

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham's acting mayor says he has a plan to fix the city's budget, but it will take sacrifices from city employees and some city agencies to make it happen.

Acting-Mayor Roderick Royal told the council Monday night that the city needs to get its budget in shape now, and fix the $20 million shortfall before a new mayor takes over after the runoff election in mid-January.

"What we need to do is to bring the budget in line for this fiscal year," Royal said. "And either we're going to bring the budget in line or we're not. And I think the prudent thing to do is to bring the budget in line."

To do that, Royal is recommending a plan that combines cuts with new revenue for the city. Royal would make 4 upcoming paid holidays (New Year's Eve, MLK Day, Good Friday, and Memorial Day) for city employees into unpaid holidays, saving almost $4 million.

He would also reduce or cut funding for a group of outside agencies including Red Mountain Theater and the Castille Foundation among others. Royal would also reduce the city's funding for consultants, lobbyists, and the council's discretionary fund.

To bring in more money, Royal is proposing to take $3.2 million from the Birmingham Fund, which he says hasn't been touched since 1995.

Royal also wants to raise the fee the city charges patients to use its ambulance service, change the city's investing strategy to bring in more interest, and charge businesses a yearly fee for a certificate of occupancy rather than the current 1-time only charge.

All told that will save or bring in $8.1 million dollars. Royal says that's enough to fund the essentials, but would push at least $10 million of purchases or items back to midyear or even into next budget year to balance this budget.

Asked how employees or fellow council members would react to the painful choices facing them, Royal said it's time for some sacrifice.

"I don't even think many of the workers or employees will miss a beat," Royal said. "Some of it is gonna hurt each of us. What you have to learn is if you're really interested in the highest good for the city, you'll have to give a little."

Royal says the council needs to act fast if it wants to use this plan. One of those unpaid holidays he's recommending would be New Year's Eve, coming up in just over 2 weeks.