City looks to hire treasurer before 2015 fiscal year

Published 9:17pm Wednesday, July 30, 2014

For a brief period in August, the city of Selma could have two treasurers — one preparing for retirement and the other receiving on-the-job training.

Interviews for the city’s treasurer are scheduled to begin Monday, according to an email sent to city council members. Interviews will continue on Tuesday, with seven candidates being interviewed each day, according to the email. The email states 14 candidates applied for the position, which is in charge of Selma’s Finance Department

Council President Corey Bowie said the new treasurer would step into his or her role before current treasurer Cynthia Mitchell’s retirement at the end of August.

The new fiscal year begins on Oct.  1.

“Hopefully we can get someone in place to shadow Mrs. Mitchell and get the feel of the office and day to day operations,” Bowie said. “I was actually surprised by the quality of applications.”

Bowie said no internal candidates applied for the position, but a majority of the 14 applications were from Selma.

The council’s administrative committee will make the hiring decision.

Bowie said the committee would narrow down the list of 14 candidates to three finalists and present the committee’s three recommendations to the entire city council for approval.

Bowie, Ward 3 councilman Greg Bjelke, Ward 4 councilman Angela Benjamin and Finance Department revenue officer Sequita Oliver will interview candidates, Bowie said.

Bjelke said the council should be meticulous in its selection, but also realize the urgency of the hiring process.

“There’s a timeline here,” he said. “We want to be careful who we select, but we can’t dilly dally because the fiscal year starts in October.”

Ward 1 councilman Cecil Williamson said he also plans to participate in the interview process and said the council should hire a replacement for a lesser amount than Mitchell’s salary.

“The range is from $45,000 to $52,000 and I certainly don’t think we would start at the top,” Williamson said.

It’s unclear if Selma Mayor George Evans will participate in the interview process, but Bowie said the council would ask for Evans’ input before making a decision.

Evans did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

A decision on the treasurer position could be made as early as the Aug. 12 council meeting, Williamson said.

Regardless of the choice, the new city treasurer would be jumping into a budget with thousands already set aside for specific purposes and a declining sales tax base.

Some of the pre-designated funds include $160,000 to pay for new fire trucks and $39,000 for new police cars with earmarked money from a half-cent sales tax fund. Selma fire chief Mike Stokes said the actual cost of the trucks could be less than the $160,000 initial estimate.

In early 2014, Williamson pushed a measure through the city council that set aside $450,000 in half-cent sales tax money for one-time city employee bonuses.

The city is also in the midst of paying for two, multi-million dollar bond issues. The city’s 2014 fiscal year budget lists $943,777.42 to pay for long-term debt service.

An additional $4.1 million could be tacked onto the city’s total debt in late August or early September. Selma is waiting on final approval for a loan from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) that would rehabilitate nine miles of sewer lines. Pending approval by ADEM and the city council, the loan would tack on $240,000 per year to the city’s debt payments for a period of 20 years, according to city engineering consultant Ray Hogg.

Evans previously proposed paying for the ADEM loan through the city’s half-cent sales tax fund.

“It seems like we are up to our necks in debt,” Williamson said. “I certainly will not for vote for any kind of increase in the budget. At best it has got to be a level budget or see some kind of reductions.”

Bowie, on the other hand, said he was optimistic about the city’s upcoming budget year.

“There have been some things talked about, such as creative ways in preparing the budget and ways we can improve on delivering better day-to-day services,” he said. “It’s a good thing that whoever we select from this process will get some on-the-job training before Mrs. Mitchell retires.”

Mitchell said the city is already working on budget preparations for the 2015 fiscal year.

Selma’s fiscal year 2014 budget projected $16.4 million in expenses and $16.4 million in revenues.

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