No current employees should worry about their jobs, down-sizing, or pay cuts, the mayor told the council tonight in his annual budget presentation. And that was the good news. The bad news was that the budget is a tight one, with no COLA, longevity or annual bonuses for employees unless the year finishes with a surplus. The news got a little worse for past employees when the council later denied by a 9-1 vote an optional lump-sum bonus payment to retirees the state Legislature approved earlier this year. See more, below.
With $9.7 million in community center expenses completed, the mayor’s overall $55,733,622 budget this year compares nearly identically to one presented last year at $63,832,344, and in which the $40,778,205 proposed General Fund spending is only slightly ahead of the $40,020,937 presented for FY 2014. The Finance Committee now has the month of September to review and amend the budget before the full council votes on the final version. The budget year begins Oct. 1.
With the budget review looming, the council took time tonight to welcome newly appointed member Barry Smith (who was appointed to the Public Safety, Special Issues and Planning & Development committees, but was excused from the Finance Committee).
Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, and Peter Wright. Also present was mayor Scott McBrayer.
Members absent: Council president Bruce Limbaugh.
Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and code enforcement officer Scott Cook.
Audience attendance: About 30.
Approved minutes of June 23, 2014.
Appointed an Industrial Development Board member: Jon Berkery was appointed to an at-large seat on the board.
Heard the mayor’s annual budget presentation: The overview, posted on the city’s website, includes an estimated $15,146,910 for the school system, compared to $15,424,656 presented last August, in the current budget. The schools would receive $7,932,000 from dedicated sales tax and $7,214,910 from property tax, according to the estimate.
Passed the following measures in a single, “consent” vote: Dropped a request for a pedestrian cross walk across Shades Creek Parkway following a funding denial by ALDOT; and dropped considering a traffic issue on Valley View Circle, which was resolved by prohibiting parking on both sides of the street.
Approved adding parking, lighting and sidewalks on “short” Saulter: This measure, costing $31,000 total, is meant to relieve parking congestion on Carr Avenue from GianMarco’s restaurant.
Postponed public nuisance proceeding against two properties: At the request of friends helping a homeowner clear overgrown conditions at 2831 and 2827 16th Pl. South, the council granted an extension to Sept. 22.
Sent a stop-sign request for Roseland Drive back to committee: A traffic study didn’t warrant a 4-way stop at Roseland and East Glenwood Drive, but Mr. Thames seemed set to recommend it when it was decided to kick the matter back to the Public Safety Committee.
Approved a retail liquor license application: The council had no objection to Oak hill Bar & Grill’s state ABC Board application.
Approved hiring an investment consultant: After hearing several sales pitches, the council agreed to hire Raymond James Financial Advisors, to advise on city investments. Contract amount not discussed.
Denied 9-1 a lump-sum bonus to city retirees: After an austere introduction to the budgeting process, words of caution from the mayor, and despite expectant retirees present in the audience, the council with just one dissension opted not to grant the payment. The bonus for 171 Homewood retirees and beneficiaries of deceased retirees vested in the Retirement System of Alabama would have amounted to $107,656 — a sum the council didn’t think it could afford. Interestingly, Homewood is a stand-out compared to other Jefferson County cities, both in terms of its high numbers of retirees and its record of denying bonuses. This information sheet shows Homewood ranking second in 21 Jefferson County municipalities, second only to Bessemer. Its estimated lump sum payout (based on $2 per every month worked) averaged about $600 per retiree.
Voting yes: Fred Hawkins voted yes, saying he was persuaded by the number of years the city had voted down a bonus (see link, above)–which is meant to help retirees keep pace with inflation. Homewood had voted yes to only three of the past 11 years that increases were allowed, compared to, say, Hoover, which voted yes in seven.
Approved vacating an alley to sell: After granting unanimous consent for an immediate vote, the council voted to surrender possession of an alley off of Kensington Road and authorized the city attorney to negotiate a sale price to an adjacent homeowner.
Approved more than two dozen general fund transfers: The transfers move money from various funds into various other funds to meet financial needs.
Approved a cell phone contract: The mayor was authorized to sign a contract with Verizon for an unspecified number of lines and cell phones, amounting to $18,000 for the next year.
Approved an engineering contract for work related to the first phase of the West Homewood (Village) redevelopment: A contract with Engineering Design Technologies, Inc. was approved for professional consulting and design engineering services prior to construction. Later in the meeting, it was mentioned that a buyer may be interested in the city-owned property on Oxmoor Road at Oak Grove Road.
Abstaining: Mr. Hallman due to familiarity with company principals.
Moved the following items to committees, as follows:
To Planning and Development – Set a Sept. 22 hearing after the favorable Planning Commission recommendation to rezone vacant property at 1728 – 26th Avenue South from R-7 (Attached Dwelling Unit District) to C-2 (Neighborhood Shopping District) by Larry Mantooth; and to consider the Planning Commission’s 6-1 favorable recommendation to amend the Final Development Plan in the MXD Zoning District at 1659 – 28th Avenue South to add a second story and other changes to a structure, by owner Abby Brock.
To Public Safety – To consider an off-premises beer license for Shell station at 2908 U.S 31; and add a two-way stop sign at Grace Street and Gainswood Road, and a third stop sign on Mecca Avenue at Frisco Street.
To Finance – To consider declaring six police cruisers surplus in order to sell at auction; and to pay for a tree removal at 204 Broadway on resident’s claim that a city sidewalk installation damaged tree’s root system; to review the mayor’s budget and set a public hearing schedule for September.
To Special Issues – To consider variances to sign ordinance at 3054 U.S. 31 and a Chinese restaurant at 24 Green Springs Highway.
Set Sept. 8 public hearings for the following: For the recommended rezoning of vacant land at 1728 – 26th Avenue South from R-7 (Attached Unit Dwelling District) to C-2 (Neighborhood Shopping District) and the 6-1 vote to amend the Final Development Plan in the MXD zoning district for a building planned at 1659 – 28th Avenue South. And for For sign variances at 3054 U.S. 31 and 24 Green Springs Highway; for a public nuisance hearing for property at 708 Carr Avenue.
Made new committee assignments: Ms. Reid was assigned to Finance and removed from Special Issues and Planning and Development committees. Ms. Smith took the Public Safety, Special Issues and Planning and Development committee assignments as well as taking over as liaison to the Arts Advisory Council.
Approved filing a nuisance structure abatement lawsuit: This action is to remove or repair a structure at 1106 Irving Road, whose grounds have repeatedly been cited as a public nuisance for weeds and litter.
Paid the bills: Bills for Aug. 11- 22, 2014 were approved to be paid.
The meeting adjourned at just past 7:30 p.m.