Plenty of good things to talk about

Published 8:21 pm Saturday, July 14, 2012

It has been six months since I last reported on the state of the city and I am proud to say the City of Selma is still healthy and moving in the right direction. We are coming out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression in a strong position and poised for growth.

I am pleased to report that we recently received an unqualified financial audit for the Fiscal Year ended Sept. 30, 2011 which is the highest level of assurance by our independent auditor. At the end of last year, Standard & Poor’s raised its ratings on the 2009 General Obligation Bond and the 2011 Pension Obligation Warrants from A/Stable to AA-/Stable, meaning the city has the very strong capacity to meet financial commitments and the outlook is unlikely to change. Rest assured that every expenditure that has been made, every refinance of our obligations, has been undertaken with a sharp focus on the bottom line. As a result, the City of Selma is in good financial shape.

We are beginning the process of preparing the preliminary Fiscal Year 2013 budget. While sales and lodging tax revenues have experienced a modest uptick recently, our projected budget will remain in the neighborhood of $17 million for the foreseeable future. Although things are looking up, we’re not out of the woods yet and as the stewards of your money, we have to exercise every precaution to cushion the public coffers against any unexpected downturn. As we have been doing for the past four years, we will continue to do more with less.

Email newsletter signup

I am also happy to report that while we have experienced some high profile crimes in the past few months that the overall crime rate, as well as violent crime, is down. At the last city council meeting, we cited statistics from 2000 through June 2012. Aside from an increase during the year from 2009 to 2010 at the height of the recession, when every city in the nation experienced a sharp increase in crime, all trends are in a positive direction.

My heart and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones but if it is any consolation, we’re working diligently to find ways to protect the lives of our citizens, especially our young people. While we can’t prevent crime, we can take actions to mitigate it by providing activities for our youth, supporting our schools and helping to create jobs, good-paying jobs, right here in our own backyard.

While we’re talking about jobs, I can’t say enough about the youngsters working in the Summer Youth Employment Program. Every year, I tout the current crop as the best we’ve ever had and every year I’m speaking the truth. I also want to thank my staff for putting together one of the most successful programs since its inception. Through creative thinking and planning how to best serve the more than 400 youth who applied, we were able to employ 220 young people, double the usual number. We are well aware that what we do is never enough but we strive every year to do better. Thanks to the city council and all the businesses and organizations who gave so generously. I don’t believe there’s another city anywhere the size of Selma with citizens so willing to open their hearts and pockets whenever they’re asked. We are truly blessed.

And talk about blessings. Two weeks ago, the young people of Selma took center stage during the annual Fourth of July Program. The theme was “Youth: America’s Heritage and Hope.” The confidence and talent displayed by the young men and women who led the program and the bright faces of the scores of youngsters who swarmed to the field to sing “We are the World” were reminders that Selma’s children are our future. If we elected officials ever have a reason to question why we do what we do, there was the answer. It was an inspiring evening and the fireworks were great too.

My thanks to my staff and the government and civic partners who worked so hard to make it a success. A lot of prayers went up that evening and even Mother Nature finally cooperated. It was, without a doubt, the best Fourth of July celebration in recent memory.

There’s so much more good news to report that will have to wait until my next column. However, I do want to remind everyone that the Operation Black Belt military medical mission will be returning to Selma from Aug. 5-17 to provide vision, dental and medical services.

It is a privilege and an honor to serve as your mayor and I look forward to continuing to work with you to bring about a bright and prosperous future for all citizens.