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Budget & Finance Question Mayor’s Office Over Prolonged Economic Impact of COVID

By Danielle Merrill

Birmingham mayoral staff answered questions on the 2021 budget, reserve funds, and the economic effects of COVID-19 in the Budget and Finances Committee meeting this Tuesday.

“We don’t wanna waste anybody’s time, but we do want answers to our questions,” Councilwoman Valerie Abbott said.

The proposed fiscal year 2021 budget was presented by Mayor Woodfin on Aug. 18 and included several cuts and furloughs, according to CBS 42 News. Abbott said the budget is just a projection and that the pandemic could get better or worse.

“This could go on for six more months, it could go on for three more years, it could go on for ten more years…We could have another pandemic. We are in a serious mess. Our city is weak, and it’s gotten a heck of a lot weaker because of this pandemic,” Abbott said.

Lester Smith, the Director of the Finance Department, said there’s no worry about the security of the City of Birmingham’s re-imbursement for COVID-related costs.

“None of those expenditures that we’re going to be reimbursed for are currently in the 2020 general budget. Those monies that were spent have been moved outside. It will not be an issue as it relates to the 2020 year,” Smith said.

When it came to the future of the Birmingham reserve fund, Smith said he was looking at the possibility of bond refunding.

“Our concern is we don’t know what’ll happen with the election in November, so we’re trying to get to the bond market as quick as we can,” Smith said.

Councilwoman Crystal Smitherman said she was concerned for the local youth and asked if there were any city-sponsored programs for children.

“I really want to propose us having some type of funding for our kids, just with the pandemic and with these parks closing. We have to do something for them,” Smitherman said.

In other business, the board approved:

  • A $421,585 development agreement that would improve workforce units and provide five rent-free housing units to assist victims of homelessness and domestic violence
  • a $163,879 agreement between Tyler Technologies, Inc. and the city of Birmingham to continue covering annual maintenance and support services
  • a $54,495 resolution for access to LeadsOnline, LLC’s reporting and criminal investigation system for the use by law enforcement officials.

The next Budget and Finance Committee is Tuesday at 3:30p.m.in the City Council Chambers

Edited by Hannah Warren, Ryan Michaels, & John H. Glenn

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