The Piedmont City Council approved a $5.57 million budget Tuesday, five months into the fiscal year to which the document applies.
Its approval came after months of debate among council members about whether spending cuts should be made and if so, where. Mayor Bill Baker said the budget is as lean as can be without reducing city services.
“It’s a bare bones budget, there’s no meat on it at all,” Baker said after the council’s regular session in which it passed the plan. “But it’s a budget we can live with and pay the bills with.”
Baker said the council had delayed passing the budget to make sure money was spent appropriately.
“I think they were just being good stewards of the money,” Baker said. “They wanted to make sure everything was being spent where it needed to be spent.”
The council’s 2017 fiscal year started Oct. 1. Typically, budgets are passed before the start of new fiscal years. Due to its size, however, Piedmont is not required by state law to pass an annual budget.
The budget shows $1.6 million was transferred from utilities revenue to the General Fund to fully cover projected city expenses. Utilities should collect about $7.8 million in revenue during the fiscal year, according to projections.
During the meeting, City Clerk Michelle Franklin said the city was in danger of losing all the money it receives for its senior center if a budget wasn’t passed soon. The Anniston-based East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission sends the city an annual sum to pay for the senior center. Franklin said the commission requires the city submit a budget as part of the paperwork needed to pay out the senior center money.
“They have the money to send us, but we can’t get it because we don’t have a budget for them,” Franklin said.
Franklin also said not having a budget was starting to cause difficulties for department heads.
“They don’t know if they’re overspending,” Franklin said. “We don’t have the budget numbers to put in.”
Also during the meeting, the council agreed to hire one new lineman and two new groundmen for the utilities department. Baker said without the hires, the utilities department would be unable to perform all the electrical work in the city safely.
“We have some power poles that need to be set; we can’t safely do it right now because we don’t have enough people,” Baker said. “If we have a storm come through … if it knocks down four or five poles … we are up a creek.”
The council also agreed to classify as surplus the site of the city’s skateboard park so that it can be bought and used by the Piedmont Rescue Squad. The property, located at South Center Avenue, is directly behind a building the Rescue Squad bought last year to use as its new headquarters. The Rescue Squad provides EMS services.
Baker said he’d like to just give the Rescue Squad the property, but that he legally couldn’t and must put it out for bid at fair market price.
“Hopefully the Rescue Squad can get it,” Baker said.
Phillip Winkles, chief of the Rescue Squad, said his organization had outgrown its current headquarters and needed the new, larger building to relocate.
“The property behind it is going to be the garage to park our vehicles,” Winkles said. “We’re excited for it and would like to move in by May.”
Baker noted that the skateboard park remains popular and wanted the equipment moved beside the city civic center if possible. The council agreed to look into the issue once the Rescue Squad had acquired the property.
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.