Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Several spending votes pulled from City Council agenda

By Evan Belanger, The Decatur Daily

Decatur Council President Greg Reeves has delayed votes on two transportation-enhancement projects, pending the outcome of upcoming budget talks.

Reeves said Tuesday he called off the votes, which would have authorized projects to revamp a portion of Bank Street downtown and beautify the U.S. 31 causeway, because he was not sure the city will have the needed $134,430 in its incomplete fiscal 2011 budget to match grants for the projects.

While he described the projects as needed and said he would know more as the city continues its budget process, he also said the city may have to wait until fiscal 2012 to fund its portion.

The 2010 grants awarded by the Alabama Department of Transportation total $537,720 in federal funding, not including the city’s matching funds. Grant Administrator Allen Stover said the city must start the projects by 2012 to accept the grant money.

Hiring vote delayed
In related matters, Reeves also delayed a vote that would have hired the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama at a cost of $17,000 to help the city adopt a new budgeting system. Reeves said he expects that item will make it back on the council’s agenda for consideration Sept. 20 or Oct. 4.

At the request of Tami Reist, director of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Reeves also canceled four votes that would have increased the bureau’s take from the city’s lodging tax from 75 percent to 95 percent.

The extra funding was intended as part of a plan for the visitors bureau to begin funding the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts and the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

But Reeves said the plan may be unraveling because Reist had concerns the proposed funding was not enough to cover the extra expense. Reist said the votes were tabled because they were uncertain if the funds would be available in the city’s 2011 budget.

It was not clear Tuesday when the council will consider a budget for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1.

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