Financial leaders

Heflin City Council learns about city finances during a work session to discuss the city's upcoming budget. Left to right are City Clerk Shane Smith, Mayor Rudy Rooks, Councilman Travis Crowe, Rhonda Lines and Clinton "Shag" Austin.  

HEFLIN — Heflin City Clerk Shane Smith’s latest draft of the municipal budget for fiscal 2019 illustrates a city with growing pains.

As the City Council learned at a work session Tuesday night, the proposed budget currently has a deficit of $22,555. Smith told council members that the deficit could be accounted for with two capital improvements. Take away those improvements — a grappling truck and a fire engine — the budget would be $46,000 “to the good” Smith said. Smith said he is going to put money aside for the trucks.

The $22,555 deficit also does not include any pay raises for city employees. If pay raises are given the budget shortfall would balloon to a deficit of $52,726.

The reasons for the budget shortfall are numerous according to Smith but the main increase is the amount the city has to pay each year for debt services. Smith explained that debt services is debt accumulated over many years from several different expenditures that the city has to pay back. The amount for debt services is $457,750 — an increase of $40,000 from the previous year according to Smith.  

Other hurdles the city has to overcome include:

— Five percent increase in the city’s contribution to health insurance for city employees

— Increases in the amount the city has to pay the county for the inmate housing

— Increase in the volume of fire department calls due to the increases in the number of storms and vehicle wrecks on Interstate 20

— Rising costs of utilities for city buildings

— Rising costs police dispatch services. (The amount did not go up this year but has gone up in recent years.)

The council nixed raising sales taxes altogether, noting that the city’s sales tax is currently nine percent. Smith said that cuts have to be made.

“We’re trying to make some cuts so we can have funds set aside for other expenditures for other capital improvements so we can start building a reserve up for the city,” he said.

Smith said he will present another final draft of the budget at next week’s council meeting for further adjustments. The budget will be voted on at the last council meeting of the month.

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.