Mayor Bell revamps budget proposal with lesser salary cuts

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Mayor William Bell is putting forward another budget plan that he says would reduce the proposed pay cut for city workers from 10% to just 4%.

But city workers aren't so sure this helps them at all.

Mayor Bell's plan would suspend the 11 paid holidays and would only cut their salaries by 4%.

But city councilors and employees pointed out tonight that suspending holidays is still reducing pay. Now, the council has 4 budget ideas to consider only a couple of weeks before the new budget is due.

Mayor Bell's new plan revealed Thursday is designed to find $16 million in savings that would negate the 10% pay cuts he's proposed for all city workers.

To do that, the mayor uses some savings from closing 3 libraries, he'll reduce his staff by $755,000--no word yet on how many people that would be--and he would suspend the 11 paid holidays for city workers. Add all of that up, and city workers would only have 4% cut off their paychecks next year, at least in theory.

"That gets us to that critical point of $16 million, and that's what the mayor was trying to get to $16 million in order to keep the budget balanced," said Chuck Faush, the mayor's chief of staff.

City employee unions were quick to point out that employee paychecks would still be reduced by 10%, it's just a different way of dressing it up.

"I think as you'll see in the proposal in there, the amount of money still comes up to the same amount of money, you're just shifting it around a little bit," said Don Baker, head of the Birmingham Firefighters Association. "While that may not hurt as much on pension, I'm not quite sure I understand that."

"It's how you dress it up, but here's what you can't say," Faush said. "You and I have sick days, you and I have vacation days. People will end up taking some sick days and vacation days."

The council has 2 other plans that would keep salaries steady using a combination of either furlough days or dipping into the city's reserves, something the mayor opposes.

"To really understand this, it's almost like spending every penny you've got," Faush said. "And if the washing machine breaks down at home, you've got nothing to pay for it. And the mayor is not going to put the city in that position."

But the council thinks they can take a little out of savings and still have enough left behind to keep the city's credit rating as high as it is right now.

They'll try to hammer out which of these 4 different options they want to pursue at another budget meeting on Monday.

The new budget is due to start July 1st.

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