My administration has submitted to the City Council our proposal for the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. As we work diligently to “secure Mobile’s future,” the theme of this year’s budget, we continue to face transformational opportunities that are unparalleled in Mobile’s history and steep challenges not unique to Mobile, but faced by cities across America.
In both 2015 and 2016, our departmental leadership has done a commendable job in controlling spending, further echoing our commitment to keeping our fiscal house in order. All programs and activities during the first three years of this administration have been built upon conservative fiscal stewardship. Each and every day, city employees work to improve the delivery of our core functions — public safety, public works, finance, strategic and long-range planning and economic development.
To continue on this pathway while addressing other mounting challenges will take additional fiscal discipline and courage. We face increasing debt and pension payments each year due to commitments made over the last two decades. When combined with the tightening of the general fund and a decrease in revenue growth, the financial stewardship gets progressively more challenging.
The two greatest challenges in budgeting for 2017 and 2018 will be to control the insatiable desire to increase departmental spending and to resolve conflicts arising from project prioritization in capital expenditures. Differentiating between wants versus needs, and then further deciding which needs have the greatest priority, requires teamwork, collaboration and the willingness to take some risks. We can no longer accept the premise that the city will continue doing things because that is how it was always done.
For far too long, we have neglected the very men and women we have tasked with providing for our safety. We have a nationally recognized police force and fire department, and we must take better care of them if we expect them to take better care of us.
Our policemen and women are among the lowest-paid officers in the entire country. In today’s environment it is increasingly difficult to find individuals willing to fill the ranks of our department and even more difficult to retain them. We continue to lose officers to other agencies with higher pay and incentive packages.
This budget addresses those deficiencies in our compensation package. The Mobile Fire-Rescue Department will also receive an additional $1 million to reward our firefighters who go above and beyond the line of duty. I have great expectations for our police and fire-rescue departments and am committed to providing additional training, equipment and resources to further enable and improve their service to our community.
To continue transforming the city, we must continue fixing the broken infrastructure in the city. We are persisting in our aggressive, proactive approach to the process of allocating more capital improvement and equipment monies than ever before. For the second year in a row, we have collaborated with the City Council to propose a capital improvement plan that encompasses all City Council districts and directly impacts all Mobilians. This sustained focus on our streets, bridges, sidewalks, ditches and parks is a priority for our time, energy and resources.
I once again commend the City Council for their partnership in doing what is best for Mobile. This year we will undertake more projects than ever before with an eye on our goal of lessening the backlog of critical infrastructure maintenance needs that have persisted for decades.
Another key component of this year’s budget is to fund MoveMobile, a youth initiative, and begin to invest in our youth in new and productive ways. MoveMobile is a citywide comprehensive public-private community framework to increase intentional opportunities to increase access to mentoring, access to job skill training and employment while decreasing crime and poverty rates.
Every passing day of success attracts potential partners and investors both nationally and internationally to Mobile. We must be prepared for them and the opportunities they will bring.
As the 108th mayor of the great city of Mobile, I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the citizens of Mobile. Let’s pick up the pace and build on this momentum to secure Mobile’s future.