Mayor Bell contemplating cuts to make budget

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Mayor William Bell today laid out what he calls a series of difficult choices to make it through the next budget year.

Bell says the city has to make major cuts including closing some libraries and rec centers and cutting back salaries for city employees.

But the city council says they don't think it has to come to that.

Bell says his budget proposal is a series of difficult and unpopular choices that have to be made to balance Birmingham's budget. And he's starting close to home with a pay cut for everyone, including himself.

"I don't like it, I'm not happy that we are in this situation under my watch," Bell said. "But it is where we are."

Mayor Bell's budget proposal projects revenues of $348 million, that's more than $70 million short of what the city planned to spend last year before the council was forced to make emergency cuts in the middle of this budget cycle.

To balance the budget, Bell proposes only $5 million for the transit authority, cutting jobs including 14 positions on his staff, cutting funding for neighborhood associations, and closing 7 rec centers and 5 libraries for 9 months out of the year after the summer ends.

The proposed cut that got the most attention Tuesday was the 10% across the board pay cut that all city employees would face under Bell's plan.

"I don't enjoy being the one to deliver this kind of news, but we are required by law to have a balanced budget, and that means difficult choices where we together--the mayor's office, the council, and neighborhoods and the employees must rebuild, united for the good of the city," Bell said.

"Taking 10% and live of the livelihood of our employees to help support our endeavors I don't think is the way to go," said city councilor Jay Roberson.

The city council thinks it can find $15-20 million in new revenue to offset those salary cuts by looking at new fees or other money-making measures.

"I believe personally $15-20 million is not a lot of money to find," Council President Roderick Royal said.

The council can now change any part of the mayor's proposal except for how much money it has to work with. the new budget starts in July.

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