Huntsville City Council discusses proposed 2021 fiscal budget

The $236 million budget is an $8.1 million increase from last year's budget.

Posted: Sep 16, 2020 6:09 AM
Updated: Sep 16, 2020 7:46 AM

The Huntsville City Council spent hours working on the city's proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year Tuesday night. 

The $236 million budget is an $8.1 million increase from last year's budget. 

Even as the city takes about a $15 million revenue hit due to the pandemic, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle spoke confidently about the continued growth in this city. He said this budget will be balanced.

"We will be able to make revenue equal expenditure this year, which I think is admirable," Battle said. "Every one of the department heads needs to be congratulated on that."

For the past 12 years, the city of Huntsville has been able to put together a balanced budget and this year is no exception. City officials said that is because when the pandemic hit, the city of Huntsville put a limited hiring freeze in place and operating budgets were cut by 5%.

"We are still sliding into home and as the mayor just said, we are going to be on budget," Finance Director Penny Smith said.

Smith explained to the council that lodging and retail sales taxes took the largest hit due to the pandemic. Battle said those losses were made up elsewhere, with sales taxes coming in from big retailers.

"We're seeing a budget that will continue to grow. We're seeing ourselves be able to do a little bit better than what we thought at very first," Battle said. 

Some key proposals include a 1% pay increase for city employees. There will be a new fire station for West Huntsville, which includes nine new additional employees.

More than $10 million is going into street resurfacing and $26 million for street construction.

"Roads which provide for more capacity, more people to get from home to work," Battle said.

A new city hall is also in the works. The current city hall is 56 years old. This budget sets aside more than $46 million for municipal facilities, including that new city hall.

"We do gain lots of savings by eliminating leases, by consolidating employees that are currently scattered among other buildings," City Manager John Hamilton said.

Overall, council members are optimistic about a budget they believe allows for growth. 

"You all have done an outstanding job with this budget considering all of the calamities that you deal with and/are still dealing with," Councilman Will Culver said. 

Council is expected to vote on the budget Sept. 24. The next fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

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