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Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin proposes $455M budget for FY 2022, city’s largest ever  

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By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times 

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday unveiled a proposed $455.5 million FY 2022 spending plan, the largest in the city’s history, that makes ‘everyone whole’ again, he said. 

The fiscal year begins July 1.

In his address to the City Council, Woodfin said the city is standing “at a moment of recovery and restoration” and the budget invests in people.

“It represents our shared priorities of neighborhood revitalization and fiscal responsibility with an eye toward investing in our future . . . this plan supports our departments’ efforts to provide efficient and effective services to the residents of our city while setting aside the necessary funds to maintain our fleet and facilities,” he said.

The FY 2022 proposed budget restores the merit, longevity and cost of living adjustment for city employees that had been cut in FY 2021 and fully funds the city’s pension at 16.5 percent. The budget also contains $22.5 million to fully support boards and agencies and $14 million toward neighborhood revitalization. 

“As we’ve gotten the backlog down for neighborhood revitalization related to blight removal, we continue to be steady with our resources toward paving streets and are investing another $10 million this year,” the mayor said.

Boards and agencies, which saw funding reduced by 50 to 100 percent last year, will receive level funding this year. “This budget is all about making our partners who all provide city services whole and I’m happy to report that,” said the mayor. 

The budget is still subject to a public hearing process and passage by the City Council — though the council cannot make changes to the budget without Woodfin’s express approval. The first public budget hearing will take place virtually on Tuesday, June 1, at 5:30 p.m.

Proposed spending in the budget includes:

  • $32.5 million for pension
  • $10 million for street resurfacing
  • $4.1 million for cost of living adjustment (COLA)
  • $3.15 million for demolition and weed abatement
  • $2.7 million for merit pay 
  • $1.5 million for longevity pay 
  • $300,000 for the Land Bank Authority  
  • $300,000 for recycling pilot program
  • $890,000 for social services 
  • $275,000 for ADA sidewalks 

Education and public safety are also covered in the proposed budget which includes $3 million for education with $1 million to Birmingham City Schools, which was cut last year and $2 million for the Birmingham Promise, an initiative that provides funds for tuition and work experience for Birmingham City Schools students entering Alabama’s public two-year and four-year colleges and universities. 

There will also be a continued investment into crime prevention and the Birmingham Police Department, which is budgeted at $99.3 million, according to the spending plan. 

Last year, the city was only able to budget for police for six months but this year for 12. 

“It will reflect a decrease in overtime but have the opportunity to hire more officers,” said Woodfin. “Since we budgeted for the full allotment of vacant positions, we were able to reduce the overtime because in the past that overtime was being used to offset some of those vacancies.” 

Woodfin acknowledged the economic impact payments that went out to citizens in not only Birmingham but across the United States from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which provided small businesses with resources to maintain payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off and cover expenses.

The FY 2022 budget does not include the $74 million in federal stimulus funding from the American Rescue Plan that the city received last week; that money will be allocated later. The city will receive a second $74 million payment from the federal government next May.

The mayor said he anticipates some criticism of the proposed budget. “I’m unaware of any budget process that we’ve had where anybody jumps up and down, but there was less jumping up and down last year because there were a lot of pain points where our employees didn’t get what they wanted, we weren’t able to do everything we wanted around certain other issues and boards and agencies got cut in half — well that’s not the case this time,” he said. “When you look at this budget, it is similar to the year before pre-COVID… I think majority of the people will be pleased with this budget in our community.” 

Woodfin predicted that FY 2022 would be “a year of unprecedented investment in our city both from the public and private sectors.”

“In addition to this operating budget, the city will be moving forward on a separate track with the Magic City Recovery supported by the funds provided through the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan,” he said. “I look forward to continued partnership with the council as we take the steps to transform our city.”

For more information on the mayor’s proposed budget, visit www.birminghamal.gov/budget2022

MAYOR’S LETTER:

Dear councilors, employees and residents,

As a city and as a nation we have been tested. We are emerging from a crisis that disrupted social norms, stalled the economy and laid bare societal inequities that remain a challenge here and across our country. Through this unprecedented time, we have met our objectives of protecting the people of our city, the employees who serve our city and the small businesses who provide the economic backbone of Birmingham.

Now we stand at a moment of recovery and restoration.

The budget I have presented to you is the largest in Birmingham’s 150 years. It represents our shared priorities of neighborhood revitalization and fiscal responsibility with an eye toward investing in our future through proven initiatives like Birmingham Promise. This plan supports our departments’ efforts to provide efficient and effective services to the residents of our city while setting aside the necessary funds to maintain our fleet and facilities.

This budget invests in our people.

I want to acknowledge the commitment to service our employees have shown over the last year, despite difficult times brought on by the impact of the pandemic. They have met the challenge and deserve our thanks and support. This budget includes merit pay, COLA and longevity pay. Our commitment to fully fund the pension is reflected not only in this budget but by recently passed legislation supported by the pension board that mandates we meet our annual contribution. Through the works of this administration and this council, the pension fund will be on solid footing for our current and future retirees.

We have made great strides in our neighborhoods. Revitalization starts with stabilization. I acknowledge it is a long process to rid our communities of all the blighted, abandoned houses but we have seen progress. Our commitment to the city’s 5-year street resurfacing plan, which represents all nine districts, is supported in this budget. Overall, this budget represents another significant investment in our neighborhoods with an emphasis on growth.

This budget invests in community.

Difficult decisions had to be made in the previous budget to address the immediate crisis while laying the groundwork for a quick recovery. This budget represents a commitment to the boards and agencies who serve as our community partners. I am pleased to report funding to our boards and agencies has been restored to the level before the pandemic.

This is a moment like no other in Birmingham’s history. This will be a year of unprecedented investment in our city both from the public and private sectors. In addition to this operating budget, the city will be moving forward on a separate track with the Magic City Recovery supported by the funds provided through the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan. I look forward to continued partnership with the council as we take the steps to transform our city.

This fiscal year represents restoration and growth. As we mark our 150th year as a city, I encourage each of you to join me in supporting this budget plan for the good of our people.

For the bright future of Birmingham.