The Fairhope City Council began discussions on Mayor Tim Kant’s $61 million dollar proposed fiscal year 2015 budget during a work session Monday.

The proposed budget, with $56 million in expenses, includes a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for employees and capital expenditures of $1.7 million.

“I personally felt like it was a good budget,” Council President Jack Burrell told other councilors on Monday. “It had the ingredients I was looking for. I didn’t see any major items omitted and I didn’t see any major items added. There were no surprises.”

Included in the budget is $7 million in sales tax revenue, Kant said. That money will be split with half of it going to pay off debt and the other half going to capital projects, he said, including $2 million for soccer fields.

“There was a significant effort to keep the price down,” Burrell said of the proposed soccer fields. “Dare I say we’re moving in the right direction.”

Kant took 40 percent of the city’s utility fees revenue, about $4 million and transferred it to the general fund. The city allows for a transfer of no more than 50 percent of utility revenues into the general fund. Kant said his office has been trying to bring that down.

The budget includes public utilities upgrades worth about $4.5 million. That includes $2.2 million to finish the sewer plant upgrades, with $1.2 million to purchase vehicles and equipment. Capital expenditures include $454,110 for the Fairhope Police Department for four SUVs, 36 body cameras and new police radios.

The budget also includes $439,000 for the information technology department for upgrades to the phone system, upgrades to the payroll system, Microsoft licenses and the rollout of WiFi. The recreation department will see $133,000. That money will be used for a paint machine, vacuum thatcher, scoreboards, recreation center equipment, pool vacuum, A/C unit, washout drain, backstop netting, windscreen/windows and fencing.
Two big expenditures in the capital budget include six new tennis courts, which totals $300,000 and irrigation to the golf course, Kant said. There is an $800,000 surplus in the capital budget, Kant said. That money could be used for sidewalks, or for park upgrades, he said.

Property tax revenue will see a dip in fiscal year 2015 from $4.5 million to $4.4 million, while local tax revenue is set to increase from $7.1 million to $8.2 million. Revenue from licenses and permits will also increase from $2.8 million to $3 million.

The budget also includes about $45,000 to allow the city to keep an engineer on retainer, Kant said.

“With the drainage problems we have it would be a great benefit to public works to be able to review the plans before we start on a project,” Kant said.
He said it was cheaper than hire a staff engineer.

“This is a good way to see if we can do the same thing for less,” Kant said. “I was worried about the cost.”

The council agreed to have a budget work session on Monday, Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. and then call a special meeting to adopt it, on Burrell’s suggestion.

“This budget is in really good shape,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something we’ll have to debate for a month.”

During the regularly scheduled City Council meeting, councilors rejected a bid from Greer’s to purchase meals for inmates at the Fairhope Police Department, because Purchasing Agent Dan Ames said the bid, which came in at $15,000 was incomplete. The council agreed to purchase meals from South Alabama Purchasing Company, as the current contract for inmate meals through American Foods expires at the end of the month.

Burrell questioned the move to go with the purchasing company, after noticing that the meals seemed to be significantly higher than they were through the Greer’s bid. Ames explained that part of the price difference came from the fact that the purchasing company meals were delivered, while the Greer’s meals would’ve been picked up.

Burrell asked why the council was only receiving the information now, with no time to rebid the contract before the current contract expires. Kant said this was the city’s second try at bidding out this contract. The first time they didn’t get any local bids and started the process over.

The council also approved the rezoning request of Bobby L. Faust, whose property located on the northeast corner of Bishop Road and Morphy Avenue went from a mobile home park to low-density multiple family residential. The change means the property owner can put up to seven units per acre on the 3-acre lot. There were previously 18-22 mobile homes on the location.

The city agreed to lease property at 451 Pecan Avenue to a production company for $2,500. The company is currently using the property to reshoot a scene in a film. They are using the property from Sept. 2 to Thursday, Sept. 18.

“We’ve got to do it because it’s already been done,” Councilman Michael Ford said of the agreement.

The council also approved allowing Kant to execute a $400,000 state grant for a multi-purpose path along Highway 98. The city will budget $100,000 for a match for the 8-foot wide pathway that begins on Rock Creek Parkway and continues along 98 to Highway 104, where it connects with the Eastern Shore Trail.