Mobile budget sparked debate about excessive reserves, Animal Control

Mobile budget sparked debate about excessive reserves, Animal Control

Points Highlighted:

  • The budget provides $57.8 million in the city’s Capital Improvement Fund, a locally popular revenue source for paving jobs, drainage upgrades and the like.

  • The budget passed on a 4-2 vote. The new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Bess Rich and Fred Richardson, both of whom are retiring from the council in November, cast the “no” votes .

“What is the administration’s long-range plan to address these chronic problems?” said Rich, who was first elected to the council in 1993. “It appears public services are being squeezed for the sake of showing a huge economic surplus.”

Rich, particularly, said that the General Fund shows a lack vision in addressing garbage pickup woes, adequate staffing of the fire department and relentless traffic congestion in west Mobile.

‘Significant challenges’

Mobile Civic Center (Joe Songer | jsonger@al.com).

The Stimpson administration confirmed that the city’s total surplus is projected to be around $134 million by the end of this month. The city is required to maintain a $45 million reserve, enough to run the city for two months. Stimpson’s team said that the city has built up a further $50 million to deal with a backlog of projects.

Jason Johnson, a mayoral spokesman, said that no reserve dollars are earmarked for specific projects. But he said there are “definitely some much-needed projects that those funds could be used for, which would prevent the city from borrowing money.” Councilman Joel Daves, who chairs the council’s finance committee, said the beefed-up reserves can go to big-ticket items that pose “significant capital challenges.”

These include: -Upgrading the aging Mobile Civic Center that is costing taxpayers over $1.5 million in maintenance each year.

-Consolidating police and fire administration services into a new public safety complex. -Repurposing an underutilized Ladd-Peebles Stadium

“There are a lot of these issues out there that will require big capital infusions,” Daves said. “It’s good we have that excess reserve so we can start approaching those.” Stimpson, in a statement, said there are other projects that could be eligible for future funding. Among them are construction of a new “Brookley by the Bay” park, supporting a new Downtown Airport at Brookley, and expanding the city’s stock of affordable housing.

There’s also a backlog of deferred maintenance on city buildings and facilities that the administration estimates will cost more than $83 million. “Being able to invest significant cash infusions into some or all of these projects will allow the city to avoid incurring debt in order to pay for them,” said Stimpson. “These funds, with City Council approval, will be put to work within two years.”

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