By Evan Belanger, The Decatur Daily
Decatur Mayor Don Stanford’s proposed budget for fiscal 2011 includes a host of revenue-generating fee increases, as well as numerous spending cuts.
City officials discussed the budget during a finance meeting Wednesday. Proposed fee increases included a 2-percent hike in the city’s 6-percent lodging tax and a 0.9-percent increase in garbage-collection rates.
Other budget proposals included a $1-per-month fee to be collected on all utility bills to recoup the cost of operating and maintaining street lights, traffic signals and outdoor lighting in public parks.
Another proposal projected $250,000 in additional revenue if the city hires Revenue Discovery Systems of Birmingham to help identify and collect delinquent taxes from companies and individuals that have done business in Decatur without purchasing a business license.
As expected, Stanford’s budget also called for numerous spending cuts, including the reduction or elimination of 27 public-service contracts and a $500,000 cut to the city school system. It would cut spending in nearly every city department, too.
The combined fee hikes and spending cuts increase Stanford’s revenue projection for fiscal 2011 from $51.94 million as of Sept. 1 to $53.32 million. That’s an overall revenue increase of nearly $1.4 million to project a $110,423 surplus for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1.
Work in progress
Stanford and General Services Director Wally Terry stressed the budget was still a work in progress and that none of the proposals would become official until approved by the City Council.
“We want to look at all options to us ahead of time and that’s all we’re doing,” Terry said.
Of the city’s five councilmen, only Councilman Roger Anders attended the full meeting. While Councilman Billy Jackson stayed for part of the meeting, he left after discussion of a Fire and Rescue Department grant concluded.
Prior to the meeting, Jackson said he did not plan to stay for the full session because he did not want to condone the Wednesday finance meeting, which he said excludes the public from city business.
In reaction to the budget proposals, Anders asked for research showing how the proposed 8-percent lodging tax would compare with other cities’ lodging taxes. He also said he was concerned about cutting municipal appropriations to which the council had already committed.
“We’ll do our best to see what we can do about getting that back to them,” Stanford responded.
In addition to the proposals included in Stanford’s budget, Finance Supervisor Linda McKinney presented contingency options for the council to consider during upcoming budget hearings.
Those projected $120,000 in additional revenue if the city begins charging for public services it currently provides free and $500,000 in savings if the city cuts what a finance document referred to as “an identified service.”
City officials declined to say what services they may charge for or what service they may cut.
“Until we’re 100 percent sure that this is what we’re going to do, we’re not going to start speculating to the news media or to the public about, ‘We may do this, we may do that,’ ” Stanford said.
Another contingency proposal projected $800,000 in additional revenue if the city begins charging a sales-and-use tax in its police jurisdiction.
The proposed budget comes as the city officials project a $1.5-million budget deficit this year and a second consecutive year of declining revenue during fiscal 2011, after flat revenue in fiscal 2008 and 2009.
“We cannot expect to live on the revenues that we’ve lived on for the past four years,” Terry said.
“We’ve got to look at all options, and some of those options might not be viable, but if we don’t look at them and discuss them as a community, we won’t know that.”
Councilmen Gary Hammon, Ronny Russell and Greg Reeves did not attend the meeting.
Public service cuts
A draft of Mayor Don Stanford’s proposed budget for fiscal 2011 calls for numerous cuts to public-service agencies contracted with the city. Finance Supervisor Linda McKinney said the proposed cuts are based on several factors, including how much the agency received previously and the percentage that the city funding accounts for in the agencies’ budgets (*—proposed for 2011):
Agency 2010 Budget 2011* %Change
Decatur Public Library $372,081 $334,873 (10)
Morgan County Emergency Management District $566,474 $550,000 (2.9)
Decatur-Morgan County Emergency Mgt. Agency $26,791 $23,442 (12.5)
North-central Alabama Regional Council
of Governments (NARCOG)/Regional Planning $18,486 $18,846 0
North Central Alabama Mental Health Board $19,402 $0 (100)
Morgan County Economic Development Association $76,274 $64,883 (14.9)
NARCOG/Transportation Planning $26,100 $26,100 0
North Central Alabama Mental Retardation Authority $12,585 $10,680 (15.1)
NARCOG/Senior Aid Program $2,000 $0 (100)
Morgan County Health Department $148,200 $118,560 (20)
North Alabama Meals on Wheels Program $19,760 $15,808 (20)
Foster Grandparents Program $14,301 $0 (100)
Dec.-Morg. Co. Chamber of Commerce/BRAC program $9,534 $0 (100)
Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts $49,400 $40,000 (19)
Morgan County Area Transportation System $148,200 $150,000 1.2
Decatur-Morgan County Seniors Council $59,112 $53,200 (10)
Decatur-Morg. Co. Convention and Visitors Bureau $522,000 $560,000 7.3
Morgan County Rescue Squad $9,534 $8,342 (12.5)
Pryor Field Airport Authority $30,000 $30,000 0
Mainstreet Decatur $33,370 $0 (100)
Decatur-Morg. Co. Chamber/Cornerstone Partnership $38,137 $40,000 4.9
Hospice of the Valley $5,434 $0 (100)
American Red Cross $5,434 $0 (100)
Decatur Beautification Board $19,068 $18,000 (5.6)
North Central Alabama Mental Health/Facets $16,208 $0 (100)
ARC of Morgan County $7,074 $5,659 (20)
Dec.-Morg. Co. Chamber/Business Dev. Board $28,602 $22,882 (20)
Volunteer Center of Morgan County $10,488 $0 (100)
Carnegie Visual Arts Center $4,940 $20,000 304.9
Parents And Children Together $4,767 $0 (100)
Morgan County System of Services $4,800 $4,800 0
Decatur Community Free Clinic $74,100 $59,280 (20)
Morgan County Child Advocacy Center $24,700 $20,995 (15)
Junior Achievement of North Alabama $4,767 $0 (100)
Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority $74,100 $74,100 0
Decatur Youth Symphony $14,302 $13,500 (5.6)
Calhoun Community College Robotics Complex $250,000 $250,000 0
Downtown Arts Center $200,000 $300,000 50
Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center $60,000 $90,000 50
Total $3,010,885 $2,923,950 (2.9)