Birmingham City Council voting on how to spend $53 million surplus in city budget
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Birmingham City Council will vote on March 29 to increase the pay of all city employees by five percent after finding a $53 million surplus in the 2021 fiscal year budget.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said the surplus mainly comes from sales tax, lodging tax, and occupational tax increases.
This also comes after reports of Birmingham police officers not showing up for work because of salary concerns.
In Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposal to council, all city employees will get a guaranteed immediate five percent cost of living raise that will cost the city more than $11 million. The plan includes up to another five percent after July 1, based on merit.
Mayor Woodfin is also offering longevity payments to long term employees and better insurance. Woodfin said employees won’t pay for the new and improved insurance, they’ll keep paying what they pay now. The city will cover the rest, which city officials tell WBRC is more than $4 million.
Many councilors voiced concerns about the Birmingham Police Department, saying the city does not have enough officers on staff. Council President Wardine Alexander said that we are losing our first responders to other cities that pay more.
“We are competing with other municipalities who do provide higher salaries,” Alexander said. “So, that is one of the things we are working with, the retention and looking at certain bonuses and certain opportunities that we can use to try and get people to want to become a member of Birmingham Police.”
Mayor Woodfin says BPD is working on an extensive plan to hire and retain more officers.
“Not only to retain them, but to hire them is very important,” Alexander said. “To keep them safe, where they are being compensated well. Not only is it a salary issue, we want to be sure they have equipment that they need in order to maintain the safety to our citizens.”
Many city council members said their biggest concern is retention. The mayor’s plan also includes $800,000 for Birmingham fire departments for firefighter retention.
The mayor’s plan also includes spending $10 million on street paving and $7 million on 100,000 uniform trash cans for homeowners. Woodfin said he hopes this will help keep streets cleaner and be paved faster.
If approved, the city will also spend more than $600,000 on multiple new garbage and utility trucks for public works.
“Our infrastructure is very important to us,” Alexander said. “Our neighborhoods are very important to us. I can tell you each councilor receives calls daily about the conditions of our streets. It is very important to us to put this ten million and add this additional ten million, so now we can go out and pave more streets.”
The city council also told Mayor Woodfin they would like to see more money for street paving in the budget that is presented to them in July for the next fiscal year.
Mayor Woodfin’s surplus spending plan does not spend all of the $53 million in surplus. It leaves more than $13 million.
This proposal will be voted on Tuesday morning and then will be presented to the Jefferson County Personnel Board in April before it is approved.
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