Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed is calling for a substantial increase in the city's budget for the upcoming year. In the mayor's proposed budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year he asked the council to approve a large increase in his own office's budget and the allotment of funds to create several new departments in the city government. Some council members, however, have questions about Reed's proposal.
The mayor has asked for double-digit raises for all city employees but Councilman Ed Grimes said, “if we give big raises we've got to cut bodies,” to which Councilwoman Audrey Graham replied, “we can't cut bodies when departments are understaffed.”
Graham seems to be correct about staffing issues, with the sanitation department saying it's having a hard time hiring while simultaneously dealing with attendance issues among current employees. Fire Chief Milford Jordan says increased calls and lack of staff led to his department paying “$5 million in overtime this fiscal year” and the city's police department is also looking to hire several dozen new officers.
Despite current staffing issues Mayor Reed is asking the council to approve the creation of several new city departments. One of these proposed departments, the Department of Violence Prevention, could help ease the strain on police officers. “It has been found to be effective (in other cities),” the mayor said, citing Camden, New Jersey and Oakland, California. Councilman C.C. Calhoun was intrigued by the proposal saying, “I'm interested to hear more about this.”
With all the talk of raises and adding new departments to the budget councilman Grimes seemed worried about all the new spending. “Since March 2020 an estimated $320 million in stimulus money has gone to citizens in Montgomery,” he said, “I want to know that if three years from now the federal money cuts off we can pay the bills.” Council President Charles Jinright tried to ease his fears by saying adjustments could be made mid-year. “In 2009 (during the start of the recession) we put a 2% cut on everything in the budget,” Jinright said.
Mayor Reed also proposed two new departments that could bring additional revenue into the city. The Department of Procurement could help cut down supply costs to the city and bring in new events as well. The proposed new Grants Department would look for federal and state grants available to the city, according to Chip Hill, the mayor's Chief of Staff.
With time running out in the fiscal year the vote on the final budget for the upcoming year should come at the council's formal meeting next Tuesday September 21st.