Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and members of the Mobile City Council appear to be at odds over decisions made in passing the fiscal year 2019 budget.
Following yesterday’s 6-0 vote by the council to approve the spending plan with 10 amendments, Stimpson released a statement on Facebook stating his team was “blindsided” by the decision.
Stimpson’s office released his response through social media, but did not respond to a request for comment from Lagniappe on Tuesday afternoon.
In the statement, Stimpson criticized the $496,000 cut to GulfQuest salaries and seems to imply the museum’s board can’t afford to cover the difference.
“By cutting funding to GulfQuest, the city will be thrown into default on many of the grants tied to the museum,” Stimpson wrote. “There will be severe financial repercussions at both the federal and local level, possibly affecting other federal grants received by the city. Additionally, the impact could be devastating to the local banks that gave loans to GulfQuest — yet the council blatantly refused to notify the lenders of their plan to make these cuts.”
In the statement, Stimpson applauded the council for increasing pay for public works employees through a 5 percent raise, but credited his own office with an idea to offer $800,000 in incentives to employees of the department.
The biggest change from Stimpson’s proposed budget to the one passed by council was significant cuts made to the city’s Innovation Team. The initiative started from a $3 million grant from Bloomberg Philianthropies but was set to be partially funded through the city in 2019. The council cut more than $500,000 from the group in favor of other priorities.
“The council’s cuts to the mayor’ Innovation Team — which has done valuable work to eliminate blight across Mobile — are a stand against innovation,” the statement reads.
Stimpson also publicly criticized councilors for $180,000 worth of cuts to his communications team, including the elimination of an additional position within the office and raises to two staffers.
In the statement, Stimpson called the moves a “stand against transparency.”
A statement issued by members of the council paints a different picture. Councilors said the process of altering the budget was transparent and included a public hearing and a finance committee meeting. The council also held budget task force meetings, which were not publicly noticed because no vote was ever taken and a quorum of members did not attend. The task force’s work was discussed during the finance committee meeting, which was publicly noticed.
In a letter to Stimpson dated Wednesday, Sept. 19, Council Vice President Levon Manzie formally asked the administration for help. Manzie also asked questions related to the Bloomberg Innovation Team grant and the proposed public works employee incentive program
“Members of the council outlined these very priorities at the public finance committee meeting and sought then and repeatedly since guidance from the administration on how best to fund them,” Councilman Fred Richardson said in the statement. “We asked they provide this guidance by noon last Friday. When it became clear they had no intention of doing so, there was no reason to delay the vote any longer.”
The majority of the changes impacted a small portion of the overall proposed budget, according to the council statement, and the cuts came from four line items.
Councilors have said they hope they can work with Stimpson’s office moving forward to find necessary funding streams for the priorities laid out in the approved budget.
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