Budget proposal presented to Selma Council

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Since City of Selma officials began seriously discussing budget cuts more than a month ago, some local agencies have waited to see if their funding will be cut.

The wait may be over next week.

With Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. unavailable for Monday’s City Council meeting, his assistant, Sheri James, passed out a second draft of the budget reduction strategy that detailed the mayor’s planned cuts.

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“I shared my vision to reinvent city government in many of the tough areas several years ago,” Perkins said in a statement read by James. “In this instance, timing is everything and the timing and political climate was never there for us to have serious discussion about these difficult issues.

Even though we did not get 100 percent cooperation, the level of cooperation received while working on this project is a real indicator that the majority of this city council and the mayor are working together.”

The council members did not go into details on how much agencies will be cut if the proposal is accepted, except for the Selma-Dallas County Library. In response to a direct question from councilman Cecil Williamson, it was stated the library’s budget will be cut by $84,000.

At the suggestion of the mayor, the city council scheduled a special session on Tuesday, Dec. 21st starting at 4 p.m.

After two hours for discussion agencies will have an opportunity to address the council and make their cases.

The mayor thanked his staff that worked on the plan.

He also thanked the seven members of the nine-member council that responded to his request for input on which agencies should be cut.

“I recognize that it took a tremendous amount of political courage to make the tough decisions and then put your name by each line item,” Perkins said. “But you did it and I thank you.”

The two councilmen who did not participate in the mayor’s survey, councilmen Reid Cain and Williamson, were criticized. The survey laid out several proposed cuts to agencies and asked each commissioner which ones they could support.

“According to the law, the mayor is to prepare a budget for the city council. We have given the mayor all the authority.

It is not the responsibility of the city council to prepare a budget,” Williamson said. “It is up to the mayor to prepare a budget and the city council to deal with it.

I do not want to usurp the mayor’s authority in any way.”

Cain, however, has made it clear from the beginning of the budget process that he does not believe the city needs to cut into agencies’ budgets.

Rather, he has said, the city needs to cut about 70 people from the payroll.

The latest proposal from Perkins cuts 35.5 jobs from the city’s budget.

Cain says the Selma is the least efficient city of comparable size in Alabama.

According to his research, Selma has more employees per citizen than any of the cities of comparable size.

However, Cain did have praise for the budget proposal passed out to each member.

“This is great,” he said. “This is more information than I’ve gotten the whole time I’ve been here.

I look forward to reviewing it.”

According to the mayor’s statement, there are 17 individual proposals in the current budget reduction program, but some are dependent on another.

“We are willing to make the tough decisions and will get the job done,” Perkins said.

Because the fiscal year is already two and a half months old and the time it will take to implement the cuts, many of the proposed reductions will have a lessened impact on this year.

“If we implement all strategies on the target date, we will reduce staff by 35.5 people and realize a cost reduction approximately $527,000,” Perkins said. “If we could have implemented all strategies at the beginning of the fiscal year, the anticipated savings would have been about $1,080,000.”