City gets oil lease funds

Published 8:27 pm Thursday, April 17, 2014

The City of Selma is $178,000 richer.

During Thursday’s city council work session, the council members got their first look at the city’s cut of oil lease funds — totaling $178,000. Each year, the money is doled out to municipalities, and all 67 Alabama counties, from the Alabama Trust Fund — created in 1985 to receive royalties from gas wells along the Alabama coast. Oil lease funds are specifically designated for capital improvements.

Normally, the oil lease funds are split among the city council’s nine members and Mayor George Evans, but this year council president Corey Bowie wants to place a percentage of the oil lease check into an emergency infrastructure fund.

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“I think it’s smart to take some off of the top to pay for any problems that may arise,” Bowie said.

Council members and Evans are scheduled to receive $17,800 each, but after discussion, Ward 1 councilman Cecil Williamson proposed that each council member and the mayor contribute $2,800. The contribution would leave each with $15,000.

Council members were in favor of the idea, but Ward 4 councilwoman Angela Benjamin asked if the contribution would cover all expenses.

“Is that what we normally spend on average?” Benjamin asked. “Would we be done after that or would we still be penny pinching, looking for funds?”

During the 2014 fiscal year — running from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sep. 30, 2014 — the city has largely used the half-cent sales tax to fund various capital improvement projects, such as purchasing police cars.

The council voted to permanently earmark a certain percentage of the half cent tax to pay for two fire trucks, which are estimated to cost about $160,000 per year.

Though bids haven’t been finalized, the council previously voted to pay for repairs to a sinkhole, formed by a collapsed storm drain underneath Bienville Park, from the half-cent fund.

Recently, the city council has avoided using the half-cent fund, in an effort to ensure city employees receive a one-time pay raise in December, which was one of the original purposes for the half-cent tax, according to Williamson.

After the meeting Evans expressed support for the idea.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “It sounds like a good idea and would be for the benefit of the whole city.”

The emergency infrastructure fund is scheduled for a vote a Tuesday’s council meeting.

The Dallas County Commission also received its batch of oil lease funds — about $300,000 — this month.