Birmingham City leaders balancing budget hit hard by COVID

B'ham to trim free city services

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - COVID-19 cost the city of Birmingham millions in economic loss. Now, city leaders are working to figure out how they will balance the shortfall and still provide the services we’re used to having.

“There’s going to be a lot of belt-tightening going on because we really think we have an issue here,” said Valeria Abbott, Birmingham City Council - Finance Committee Chair.

Early estimates show a roughly 70 million dollar blow to the city because of COVID closures - which is about a 20 percent loss in revenue.

“That’s a big, big number when you’re looking at how to continue to operate a city and provide public works services,” said Abbott.

Now city leaders are crunching numbers and brainstorming on what could be done to plan for the next fiscal year.

“One time a week garbage pick up,” said Abbott, “If the sidewalks are repaired in front of your house or other improvements are made, there’s a homeowner assessment.”

Council Members say ultimately, they’re waiting on word from Mayor Randall Woodfin. The mayor is expected to present a budget to the council August 18th and Mayor Woodfin has already started alerting agencies money is tight.

“As we plan the next steps, we also want to make sure community stakeholders are aware of the challenges we face as they create their own budgets,” said Rick Journey, Mayor Woodfin’s Office.

The city sent out letters to community partners recently, One letter went to city boards like the Birmingham Board of Education, Railroad Park, Vulcan Park, or the Parks and Recreation Board, saying in part,

“We are not sure of the final number ---- many - if not every - board and agency we support should brace for significant reduction.”

Those boards and agencies make up close to 8 percent of the city’s budget. Another letter was sent to groups that typically hold events - like festivals and races - warning that some of the costs waived in the past may not be in the future.

The finalized budget is expected to be in place by October.

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