Budget presented

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 2004

After months of waiting, local agencies and city employees only have a few more days before they find out if they’ll have a blue Christmas.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Mayor James Perkins Jr. distributed the latest draft of his proposal for the 2004-2005 fiscal year budget and it includes a proposed $420,381.52 cuts from the first draft.

Perkins, who was unable to attend the meeting in person, recommended the council meet this week to discuss the budget and then meet with the various agencies that could be affected.

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The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday and the council plans to discuss the budget amongst themselves for the first two hours and then meet with representatives.

One of the agencies that received the most publicity, and public outcry, is the Selma-Dallas County Library.

Librarian Becky Nichols said the waiting has been tough.

“It’s difficult, especially with the children’s programming, whether to forge on,” she said.

Nichols, speaking on behalf of the library, but surely echoing the sentiments of many agencies and employees, said, “I’m looking for a Christmas miracle.”

The Proposal:

A 34-page document, not including various versions of the proposed budget and cost benefit analysis proposals, the latest version of the budget seemingly touches on all areas of city government.

There are proposals for shutting down Fire Station #1, cutting funding to the library, consolidating departments, re-working retiree health benefits as well as renegotiating with the county on several projects.

The proposal outlines 15 different projects that would save the city money, some of which require an initial investment and mute the cost-cutting effectiveness of the project in year one of the budget but will pay greater dividends down the line.

In the end, the number most Selmians may be interested in is the bottom line.

According to the document entitled Proposed Budget Draft #3, the latest proposal will carve roughly $420,000 for the budget for a proposed General Fund and Capital balance of $16,131,451.66 . The city’s budgeted revenue for the year, according to the proposal, is $16,362,699.08, meaning Selma would have to make up the deficit of $231,247.43.

While the current proposal shows a deficit, the Council still has to approve it. The Council may require modifications that reduce or eliminate the deficit.

The Projects:

Ad Valorem Taxes

The county is required by state law to collect Ad Valorem taxes, however the city has done this in the past.

The County has already agreed to begin collection of the taxes. An analysis on how much the city would saved was incomplete as of presstime.

Merger of Fire Station #1

Located at 20 Franklin Street, Fire Station #1 is a historic building. It is the oldest firehouse in the city, complete with brass sliding poles.

However, Fire Station #1’s service area is duplicated by #2 and #3.

Perkins and Fire Chief Henry Allen, propose that #1 become an historic firehouse, completely inactive.

By repositioning the nine firefighters and adding six more that are currently training in Ozark, the city would be fully staffed, cutting overtime.

According to the proposal, the city’s fire rating would not change.

Concern has been expressed in the event a train were to delay firefighters from getting to a fire downtown.

Fire Station #2 is on the same side of the tracks as #1.

The proposal suggests that by fully staffing four stations instead of partially staffing five, the city can cut overtime. In the 12 months, overtime cost the city nearly $100,000.

The proposal recommends the city keep $25,000 budgeted for overtime.

In addition, the city will not fill three slots temporarily cut last year and cut an additional three slots.

The six slots represent $173,520 in savings for the city.

Fleet Maintenance

According to the proposal, the city spends about $327,330 on routine vehicle maintenance. The average hourly rate charged by a mechanic is $45-$55. The average service time is two hours per repair.

Perkins’ proposal suggests the city should operate an in-house vehicle repair shop to perform routine and small maintenance jobs at the General Services Department.

The current proposal would have four employees in the facility for a total of $93,000 in salaries annually and $27,900 in benefits.

It’s estimated that the city would save $175,497.50 in maintenance of vehicles from the police, fire, general services, cemetery, public works, landfill and recreation. That includes $70,000 for materials.

The city would also have to initially buy tools, lifts and a computer system at a total one-time cost of $46,250.

In total, the proposal estimates the city could save more than $8,000 this year, but that number would grow in future budget years.

The Selma-Dallas County Library

The library has probably gotten the most attention of any agency facing cuts.

The mayor publicly complained about the unequal spending between the city and the county on the library, even citing meeting minutes from the mid-1980’s in which the relationship was discussed.

County Probate Judge John Jones pointed out, however, that the county shares a heavier burden in other areas than the city. He also said the county is not responsible for what the city has agreed to pay.

Recognizing the county’s position, the current proposal explains the current ways in which the city gives to the library and outlines cuts that will total $42,000 this year and $84,000 annually after that.

Currently, the library receives $245,000 from the city’s General Fund, a one-cent (.01) tobacco sales tax and the monthly payment of utility bills.

The proposal goes on to further claim that since the cigarette tax was given to the library, it has been incorrectly paid out. Because the tax was not percentage-based, it should have remained constant, even as the percentage of tax levied on cigarettes rose.

“When the cigarette tax was set at five cents, the one-cent allocation for the school system and the library equaled 20 percent,” the proposal states. “As the cigarette tax increased, the percentage of that tax should have decreased. Instead, it remained the same.”

The proposal also outlines pay raises within the library, including a 43 percent increase over the last four years for the director’s salary.

The proposal states that for the last nine years, the library has had a management position, left unfilled, with a salary of $30,000.

The city’s first proposed solution is that the county takes a larger responsibility in the library, but adds other proposals recognizing the county’s position.

The proposal recommends the library pursue more grant funds and donations from the community.

The proposal also recommends that the city rescind Ordinance 279 and restructure the board of trustees of the library in a way that makes city and county representation more reflective of their contributions.

“It is further recommended that the library discontinue the rapid escalation of the library personnel salaries and look within its budget for ways to reduce costs without reducing services,” the proposal states.

Animal Control of Selma

Another area of contention between the city and county is the Central Alabama Animal Shelter housed in a building purchased by the city.

The city has spent about $400,000 in getting it ready to open. The city expected help from the county, but the county has said they will not contribute.

Essentially, the proposed solution is the city maintain and operate the shelter under the name Animal Control of Selma.

“The city should no longer anticipate financial support for the shelter from the county,” the proposal states. “However, if the county desires to use the city’s shelter then a fee per animal will be negotiated.”

The proposal outlines a plan in which the city assumes control, cuts the animal control staff by one and splits another into half animal control, half shelter support.

The city estimates this will create $53,106 in savings.

After originally agreeing to house E-911 in the Wilson Building (owned by the city), the city and county hammered out an agreement in which the city would hire employees and bear the costs of running E-911 and dispatch calls to different agencies.

The county and the sheriff’s department then reimbursed the city for some of the costs.

After the City of Selma and the E-911 Board (appointed by the county) agreed to pay for foundation work on the Wilson Building, the board voted to move the E-911 dispatch without the city’s consent.

The city is currently under a contract to provide E-911 services.

The city claims it reimburses the county 48.04 percent of money spent on salaries, benefits and overtime, not to exceed $226,000.

The city also pays a third of utilities and maintenance.

The city asks to appoint an equal number to the E-911 board because of the equal funding.

City/County Jail

In 1999, the city agreed to operate a joint city/county jail.

The city pays the county $200,000 annually for rent and is not responsible for expenses related to operation of the jail, but is responsible for bills and charges for medical treatment at an outside medical facility.

A supplemental agreement, also reach in 1999, limits the City of Selma to the use of 16 bed spaces in the county jail.

The proposal recommends the city renegotiate the contract to cut the payment to $100,000.


The city’s free recreation league baseball is played in two facilities, the county owned Sportsplex and a city owned complex.

The Sportsplex is built with smaller fields for younger teams and the complex hosts the older children, as well as some fall soccer.

With far more children playing baseball and softball at younger ages, most of the games are played at the Sportsplex, meaning most of the revenue raised by concession salesXXXXXXXXXXX is at the Sportsplex.

The city paid $12,759 last year for laborers at the Sportsplex.

“It is recommended that the City of Selma enter into a Sportsplex management agreement with the county,” the proposal states. “It is recommended that the Sportsplex and the complex be equally booked for games.”

The proposal states that while researching cost-cutting opportunities in recreation, city officials “discovered” that the county was paying city employees as well.

Director Elton Reese received $26,000 from the county while Dianne Russell was paid $5,000.

The city recommends that all direct employee/employer relationships between city employees and the county be eliminated.

Re-engineering Tourism Strategy

The city currently pays $327,000 for tourism from the General Fund and tourism account, and it gives $84,000 to local museums, the EDA and the Downtown Association.

The proposed cut involves moving $84,000 from the General Fund to the tourism budget, creating a savings in the General Fund, according to the documents.

The proposal recommends the Centre of Commerce manage the tourism fund by entering into a contract with the city earmarking the annual appropriation.

“We believe existing functions performed by the Centre of Commerce are imbedded and duplicated in tourism,” the report states. “By consolidating these functions, the city could realize a projected savings of $85,000.

Combine Code Enforcement and Historic Monitor

The city currently spends $19,002 for the Historic District Compliance Monitor to keep watch on homes in the Historic District to make sure they meet required standards.

However, the Historic Monitor has no enforcement powers and must contact the Code Enforcement Officer or another person with enforcement powers to deal with the problem.

Minus training for the Code Enforcement Officer, elimination of the position would save the city about $17,000.

Combine Finance and Tax and License

The Finance and Tax and License Department currently operate under two managers and the departments have 14 employees combined.

The plan is to combine the two departments into three divisions, tax and license, accounts receivable and general accounting.

By combining the departments, one and a half positions can be eliminated.It is recommended, however, that a revenue collection officer position be created to go after unpaid debts.

The proposal states there is no way to estimate the impact of such a position accurately, but there is $80,000 in uncollected revenue related to condemned property alone.

Consolidation of Public Works

According to the report, multiple departments within the city provide similar services: Public Works, General Services, Cemetery, Recreation and Inert Landfill.

“The departments individually and sometimes collectively provide routine services of the same type,” the proposal states. “This method of delivering services is ineffective and very costly.”

A team of city employees worked together to draft a cost benefit analysis to consolidate the department of Public Works to cover solid waste, beautification, street maintenance, tree cutting, fleet maintenance and inert landfill.

An engineer would be hired to run the department, divided into a department for each of the duties.

By consolidating the departments, the proposal estimates the number of employees could be cut from 102 to 78, saving $433,925.

The consolidation effort would create $68,485 in savings for the city, not including the benefits already mentioned in fleet maintenance and curbside pick-up (see below).

Garbage collection

The proposal also recommends changing trash pickup from backdoor to curbside, generating an additional $141,920 from commercial customers.

In addition, the city will generate one-time only revenue of $140,000 by selling seven garbage trucks that will no longer be needed.

There will be some initial costs in switching the garbage pickup, including the purchase of arm-reach trucks, dumpsters, overhead trucks and containers.

The equipment would cost about $201,000 and would be spread over a five-year period.

The equipment would allow the city to reduce manpower by 19 employees.

“The city should retain its present competitive pricing for commercial pick-up, develop a dumpster size standard and aggressively re-enter this market,” the proposal states.

Planning and Development

The most intricate and developed of the proposals, the restructuring of Planning and Development takes up seven pages of the 34 page report.

The Planning and Development Office has the responsibility of acquiring and managing grants, managing historic properties and coordinating municipal events.

The proposal evaluates the grant performance of the department and states it is coming up short.

“The most recent year shows a major decline in grant funding,” it states. “It is believed this is due to an unwillingness to change directions and pursue non-traditional grants that we are not accustomed to pursuing.”

Though the report admits the department has been “marginally successful” in making capital improvements, maintaining historic properties and making infrastructure improvements, it says increases must be made in those areas as well.

The department should implement more citizen participation with town hall meetings, surveys and neighborhood associations, according to the report.

The proposed strategy also suggests creation of a compliance manager position responsible for matching grants with grant writers and coordinating process and details.

“The mayor has the responsibility and authority to restructure the Planning and Development Department,” the proposal states. “The budget appropriations to support the department are the responsibility of the council.”

The new Planning and Development Department is laid out position by position with projected costs in the proposal.

It is estimate the new department will cost the city nearly $60,000 more than previously, but the city would be banking on better grant performance to offset the cost.

Retiree Health Insurance

Currently, the City of Selma has about 44 retired employees enrolled in Blue Cross Blue Shield, for which the city pays full cost.

Currently, employees with 25 years of service or 20 years of service at the age of 62 are entitled to continue their healthcare coverage until they reach 65, when they become eligible for Medicare.

At age 65, the employee is enrolled in a Medicare supplement program through Blue Cross Blue Shield of which the city pays half.

The project offers three solutions, the last of which is recommended.

The first is to discontinue all healthcare benefits to retirees. That would save over $150,000 a year and leave retirees with the option of buying COBRA coverage in which they adopt the full cost.

The second recommends ending the Medicare supplement program and cutting the Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage in half for retirees, meaning the city would still pay for half of the coverage.

This proposal would save the city about $90,000.

Finally, the third plan recommends cutting the Blue Cross coverage in half and keeping the Medicare supplement plan.

The retirees would pay half the cost and the city would pay half.

“By adopting this proposal, the city would still comply with the spirit of the original resolution,” it states.

The final proposal would save the city about $62,000.