The city of Mobile 2013-2014 budget is in on time, has a 2.5 percent raise for all full-time employees and is $217 million in total expenditures.
The budget projects essentially $9 million more in revenue than in the current fiscal year, but that is met with additional spending, leaving the projected outcome break even.
Mayor Sam Jones held a press conference Aug. 21 to discuss the overall budget and said he is pleased with what he presented, which the council has until Oct. 30 to approve. He also said the city’s performance during tough economic times is the reason the pay raise for employees was able to be included in the proposed budget.
“The submitted budget is fiscally responsible, balanced and transparent,” he said. “We are recovering from one of the nation’s worse economic periods, but Mobile’s economy is growing and we expect it to continue based on the city’s success in economic development. This has allowed us to give city employees a much-needed pay raise and to continue delivering services to citizens.”
The raises, which the mayor said he would push for during the April 3 state of the city address, amount to $2,347,000 for the first year. Jones said the employees’ dedication to cutting costs allowed for the merit-based raises.
Another thing also contributed to the pay increase, which on average is about $1,000 more per year for full-time employees. In October 2012, Councilman Jermaine Burrell recommended “longevity pay” to full-time city employees. Based on the number of months an employee worked for the city, the payment could be up to $1,000. This was enacted last December just after the City Council agreed to a 20 percent increase in the city’s portion of the local sales tax.
The payments resulted in a new line item on the 2012-2013 budget for $2,442,579. However, the “allowance for bonus” item is no longer in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. In effect, it has been moved to cover the $2,347,000 for the raises.
Jones noted that the bonus money did in some way get moved around to cover the raises.
“Some of what was used for the $1,000 bonus in December (of 2012) was used for the raises,” he said.
The proposed employee raises come less than a week before citywide elections for the mayor’s office and city council. The council will have to approve the budget and received copies of it Tuesday night. Councilors contacted by Lagniappe said they had not had enough time to go through the document enough to really comment on specific spending.
The budget remained relatively similar to the previous year including the 10 percent cut to performance contracts. During October 2012, the council voted to cut the performance contracts for agencies like Goodwill, Joe Jefferson Playhouse, Mobile Arts Council and others by 10 percent across the board. That resulted in $347,215.70 going into reserves instead of going to the Bay Area Food Bank, Boys & Girls Club, the Child Advocacy Center, etc.
Two museums and one office were cut during the budgeting process. The Mobile Museum of Art was cut by $34,937 and the History Museum was given $89,074 less than 2012-2013. The Film Office was also cut by $23,952.
City Finance Director Barbara Malkove said the city is also expecting more attrition this year — meaning the city expects to save roughly $850,000 over the previous year from jobs that are not filled.
A new cost for the city of Mobile is funding for positions in public safety. Federal grants paid for the first two years of employment for 20 police officers and 31 firefighters. Now the funding is set to expire in 2013-2014 and the stipulation of the grant was for the city to employ those officers for the next year. The resulting cost will be $2,772,000.
The budget projects the city to raise $799,867 more in 2013-2014 total taxes than in 2012-2013, and total resources are expected to total $218,011,583 with total expenses being $213,731,944. The required savings will be $4,274,639. Therefore $5,000 is projected as the net balance at the end.
Jones said the city’s goal is to maintain and/or improve the financial status it has now.
“It is our goal to continue sound financial management because it helped us to get through theses troubled economic times,” he said. “We are appreciative to our citizens and city departments because we know Airbus would have not chosen a city that was not fiscally responsible and could not deliver services.”