A 5 percent raise for city employees and a number of staffing shifts highlight Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s proposed $347 million FY2022 budget, which was presented to the Mobile City Council’s finance committee Tuesday afternoon.
Bob Holt, the city’s executive director of finance, told councilors many of the changes to budget line items this year came from a shifting of personnel within departments. The new spending plan includes an increase of $1.5 million for the mayor’s office. Holt said much of that can be explained in a shifting of staff from one department to another.
The 2022 proposed budget includes pay for the city chief of staff and an executive secretary for the chief of staff. Both positions had previously come under the finance department because Paul Wesch had served as the top financial officer and the chief of staff previously, Holt said.
The mayor’s office also took on the neighborhood development and municipal enforcement department, led by Senior Director James Roberts. That office had previously been under finance as well.
The budget also creates a new department and expands another. Under the 2022 proposed spending plan, the city’s film office and the 311 department will move under administrative services, led by Executive Director Joe Snowden. Snowden’s department will also now include human resources, information technology, the GulfQuest Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mobile Museum of Art.
Build Mobile, led by Senior Director Shayla Beaco, will be moved under public works and Executive Director Jim DeLapp.
The office of strategic initiatives was created. It was formerly known as the mayor’s innovation team and, up until last year, had been paid for through a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. That office will also come under the mayor’s purview.
The mayor’s office budget also splits communications into two separate groups. Anitra Henderson will become Executive Director of external and community affairs and Candace Cooksey will become director of communications in a department previously known as community engagement.
The administration also released to the council the latest copy of the city’s organizational chart, but the wording on the chart gave outgoing Councilman Fred Richardson some heartburn. The District 1 representative took issue with the fact that the chart had been “adopted” in April of this year. He argued Stimpson didn’t have the authority to do that.
“Only the council can adopt an organizational chart, according to (the) Zoghby (Act),” Richardson said. “That’s an overreach. You can’t adopt what you can’t adopt.”
City acting Chief of Staff James Barber argued, and city attorney Ricardo Woods confirmed, that the state law creating Mobile’s current form of government does not contain the words “organizational chart.”
“If you’d like us to change the wording, we will,” Barber said.
The section of the Zoghby Act in question is 11-44C-39 in the state code. The section does not include the term “organizational chart,” but does imply that divisions of the city departments “may be established by ordinance upon recommendation of the mayor.”
“Pending the passage of an ordinance or ordinances distributing the work of departments under the supervision and control of the mayor among specific divisions thereof, the mayor may establish temporary divisions,” the law reads.
The proposed budget also includes a $5 million increase in police spending. When asked by Councilwoman Bess Rich what made up the increase, Barber said the city bought more body cameras for use among all officers, which cost another $2 million. The increase is also the result of additional costs associated with the move of the city’s first police precinct to Dauphin Island Parkway, the raise and the addition of a third police academy class to help deal with turnover, Barber said.
The city’s public safety spending, which includes the Mobile Police Department and Mobile Fire-Rescue Department, makes up 37 percent of the proposed budget. The second largest single cost center is public works, which includes sanitation, parks and recreation and other departments, at 22 percent.
While current police officers and firefighters will be getting a raise if and when the new budget is adopted, retirees in those departments will not. At a public hearing on the budget Tuesday, Greg Foster requested the city give a cost-of-living raise to those receiving a pension.
“An increase is overdue and much needed in this economy,” he said. “Everything is more expensive than it was 16 years ago.”
Foster told councilors that 2005 was the last time pensioners were given a raise. He is asking for a 15 percent increase in pay to pensioners to be added into the 2022 budget.
Holt said the city is anticipating a significant increase in revenue in the 2022 budget. The budget calls for revenues in excess of $284 million. The majority of those revenues comes from sales tax, which is estimated to bring in $231.9 million, Holt said. Taxes make up 82 percent of the budget, while licenses and permits make up 14 percent, other revenues make up 3 percent and transfers into the general fund make up 1 percent of revenues.
The capital improvements fund budget totals $34.5 million and no longer includes spending for the Lending Tree Bowl, Senior Bowl, Gulf Coast Challenge, or the Mobile Sports Authority, as each of those payouts have been transferred to performance contracts. A new performance contract for 2022 is a payout to Coastal Alabama Partnership.
The Convention Center Fund totals $12.1 million.
Ronald Hunt asked councilors to take a portion of the more than $100 million expected in the city’s rainy day fund and put it toward what he called “hazard pay” for essential workers who aren’t considered city employees. Specifically, he mentioned members of the Mobile Public Library staff and WAVE Transit employees.
“There’s got to be something somewhere to provide bonuses for public servants who are not city employees,” he said. “I hope you find something in order to provide hazard pay for library and WAVE employees.”
Leadership at the library had previously asked councilors to include its employees in the giving of $5,000 bonuses to city employees through American Rescue Plan funds. Councilman Fred Richardson has also pushed for it. Under the current guidelines, library staff are not considered essential and do not qualify for the federal funds. Stimpson could call them “essential” officially, but the administration has argued on more than one occasion that the workers are not city employees.
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here