Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s proposed 2015 fiscal year budget includes a 400 percent increase in the capital improvement budget over 2014, Stimpson said in a media briefing Monday.
The capital improvement budget will increase from $3,513,000 this year to $14,345,000 in 2015, he said, after signing the budget message ahead of Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Stimpson outlined areas where the capital money would be spent. The capital budget includes $4 million for the maintenance and repair of streets, drainage and buildings and $3 million for park improvements and repairs.
Stimpson didn’t go into specifics, but said the park improvements would include fields, lights, dog parks, splash pads, walking/biking trails, playgrounds and restroom upgrades. He added that the council and citizens would be involved in the decision-making process involved with the improvement of parks.
The Stimpson administration said it would make capital spending a priority after finding more than a quarter-billion dollars had been transferred out of the fund over the past ten years.
The new budget also includes $3.2 million for 100 additional vehicles for the Mobile Police Department and $2 million for new vehicles for the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department.
The capital budget also includes $750,000 for public works vehicles and another $750,000 for a litter trap on Dog River and a litter boat.
The $227 million budget proposed by Stimpson includes $4.2 million in reserve funds, which is required under city code. Stimpson said in the future he hopes the city can build that reserve to $25 million, which equals the city’s operating expenses for a month.
Executive Director of Finance Paul Wesch said revenues for the 2015 budget are expected to increase by 2 percent over last year’s budget.
City employees are eligible to get two pay increases, equaling 5 percent next year, as part of the proposed 2015 budget, Stimpson said.
The first raise is a cost-of-living adjustment of 2.5 percent, which will take effect in October and would go to all employees. The second will be a merit raise, which will take effect in April and would be contingent upon certain benchmarks being met, Wesch said.
“We regret that it has been seven years since you had a raise,” Stimpson wrote in a memo. “By making the welfare of our city employees a high priority, we built the budget to allow for these increases.”
Stimpson said the cost sharing associated with employees’ health insurance plans will increase. The city’s coverage will remain about the same, but in January the cost share will increase from 16 percent to 20 percent for current employees. New employees will pay a different rate, he said. The city will cover the first year’s premium for the roughly 1,100 employees making $40,000 a year or less.
The full budget proposal will be released tomorrow, after Mobile City Council members get a copy at the regularly scheduled meeting at 10:30 a.m.
Updated to include information about the capital fund, public safety and public works purchases and revenues.