BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Coming into a $63 million shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s proposed budget will look very different for the city of Birmingham, including many cuts and furloughs.

On Tuesday, Mayor Randall Woodfin presented the Birmingham City Council with a proposed $412.8 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year, significantly smaller than the $451.4 million budget used last year.

Mayor Randall Woodfin said that because of the lost revenue in the first wave of the pandemic, the city chose to make cuts as opposed to increasing taxes, adding that the city already has high sales and lodging taxes.

“There is no extra tax to put on anyone,” he said. “It would be wrong.”

Woodfin said he was not immune to cost saving measures, opting to take a 10% pay cut. In the new budget, all mayoral appointees would take pay cuts between 3% to 10%. There will also be no merit-based pay raises and hiring would be frozen for the time being.

Many city employees will also be facing furloughs in the budget. Specifically, all 129 part-time employees would be furloughed as well as 259 full-time employees who mainly work in the city’s culture and recreation departments.

“These employees have been notified of this,” Woodfin said prior to the meeting.

There will also be 447 vacant positions that will be defunded, representing $15.8 million that can go to other parts of the city. In addition, holiday leave pay for nine holidays have been suspended.

The council’s budget remains unchanged.

The only three city departments that will be receiving an increased budget under the proposed budget are human resources, finance and the Birmingham Police Department.

Specifically, the BPD budget will be increased from $93.4 million to $104.6 million. However, Woodfin noted that the department’s increased budget is mainly due to 90 security guards in different city departments moving to being under the BPD’s supervision. Also, 48 sworn officer positions that had been vacant will be defunded, representing an estimated $3.4 million.

Woodfin added that many cultural organizations, such as the Birmingham Zoo, would have their funding from the city cut by 50%. Other groups like the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Vulcan Park and the Birmingham Museum of Art would also have their funding from the city drastically cut.

Woodfin said that the cuts, in addition to $23 million taken from the city’s reserve fund, would cover the losses from the last few months.

However, Woodfin said the city’s commitment to neighborhood revitalization, representing an estimated $7 million, would remain unchanged. In fact, $10 million has been earmarked for street resurfacing.

“Neglecting our duty to be good stewards is not acceptable, particularly during an economic crisis,” Woodfin said.

Addressing the “new normal” the city is in, finance director Lester Smith said there are no trends to judge where the city will go and the budget may change as the pandemic changes.

“I think this budget will have to be a living, breathing document that we will have to pay attention to on a regular basis,” Smith said.

The council will take the next few weeks to review the budget before voting to adopt it or not. The full budget can be found here.


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