The Fairhope City Council approved a $62.5 million budget for 2016 at its regular meeting on Monday evening. The budget includes $8.2 million for capital fund projects, $4.8 million for upgrades to the utilities department and $1.8 million for sewer improvements.
The budget projects $62,564,304 in revenues and $57,989,086 in expenses. After $2 million in proposed debt service, the city will have $2.5 million in excess.
“It is a living document that may change throughout the year,” City Council President Jack Burrell said. “It doesn’t mean that we have to spend every penny for an item and it doesn’t mean if you have some pet project in here that ends up costing less that you have the right to spend the budgeted amount.”
The budget includes a 2 percent cost of living raise for employees hired on or before April 30, 2015 and an additional 5.5 percent for salaries, or approximately $253,000 in new hires.
“This makes up just 2 percent of the total salary budget,” Finance Director Jill Cabaniss said. “As the city grows it is important we are able to keep up with the growth by hiring more staff.”
An additional $650,000 in community development spending includes a $345,000 payment to the city’s Educational Advisory Committee, down $5,000 from the previous year. The $5,000 was diverted from the EAC’s budget in order to fund educational outreach from Care House, which provides abuse prevention and awareness curriculum at the city’s schools.
Additionally, the city will give $10,000 to Ecumenical Ministries, $10,000 to the Fairhope Film Festival, $55,000 to the Rotary Youth Club, $35,000 to the Fairhope PIrate Booster Club, $20,000 to the Eastern Shore Art Center, $15,000 to the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance and $50,000 to Thomas Hospital.
Included in the $8.1 million capital project expenses is $1.5 million for citywide street resurfacing and repaving, $700,000 for the Rock Creek Trail TAP grant project, $300,000 for an NRCS project at the Woodlands and $237,885 for an NRCS project at the sewer plant. The city also budgeted $50,000 apiece for upgrades at the north beach park and golf paths at Quail Creek Golf Course. The budget also includes $3.5 million for construction and lights at the Manley Road soccer complex.
The Senior Bowl will get a $35,000 donation from the city this year. Mobile Senior Bowl Inc. President Angus Cooper approached the City Council to request the funds at a budget work session last week. Traditionally, the city has made in-kind donations to the Senior Bowl by allowing the use of Fairhope Municipal Stadium for practices, city employees and police security.
In a video from the budget work session posted on the Fairhope Times website, Cooper said the players, scouts and coaches often don’t like coming to practices in Fairhope because of its distance from Mobile. He told the council the donation would help keep the practices in Fairhope.
“We’ll give you the same commitment you will give us,” Cooper says in the video. “We are trying to give you the opportunity to continue having practice over here. We chose to come to Fairhope… I like where we are and I think it is a good thing for the city.”