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City Council reviews Mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023

Published on September 15, 2022

Finance Director Penny Smith stands at the podium in the Council Chambers to present Mayor Battle's budget to Council Members who are sitting on the dais.

Huntsville City Council reviewed Mayor Tommy Battle’s proposed FY 2023 budget during a work session on Sept. 15. The Mayor proposed a balanced budget, which includes $281 million in general fund operations and $104.5 million in capital projects. Public safety, road resurfacing, infrastructure and quality of life improvements remain a priority.

Mayor Battle provided opening remarks followed by budget presentations by Finance Director Penny Smith, City Administrator John Hamilton, and Urban & Economic Development Director Shane Davis.

Mayor Battle’s Remarks

“Good afternoon Council Members, and thank you for taking the time to examine the 2022-2023 Budget for the City of Huntsville. This is the 14th budget this administration has tendered for the City of Huntsville, going all the way back to 2009.

This budget addresses the needs of a growing city filled with opportunity, challenges, and promise. We’ve added new businesses, jobs, housing and entertainment – for residents and for our tax base. There is opportunity – for a job and for a better job to earn more money. Opportunity offers the citizens of Huntsville the chance to be part of our prosperity.

We’ve grown our road network. The City of Huntsville now has 3,451 miles of City roads to maintain, and this does not count the large number of local lane miles maintained by the state and federal government.

We’ve added more people. The largest city in the State of Alabama by population, we now have approximately 227,000 citizens.

Most important is that we have planned for the growth our city is experiencing, and this budget reflects our preparedness to handle it.

We have faced challenges head-on in the past 14 years of budgets, and we’ve done so successfully to make our city a better place. First and foremost is the challenge of a balanced budget. This year is no different from the rest. We have always had excess demand for funding over our ability to pay. We, the government, should have to make tough choices in budgets – and prioritize spending for what is essential for the city. Our administration has worked hard to do just that.”

“Council Members, I am proud to present to you a balanced budget this year. If there are additions, there must be deletions – please keep this in mind as we have our budget discussions.

In this balanced budget, we address and highlight public safety, infrastructure, and employee retention. Three critical areas for the city.

Of tantamount importance is keeping the streets of our city safe. We provide the means to achieve that goal in this budget. In the area of Public Safety, we are adding 24 positions to the 791 officers and civilian personnel in the Huntsville Police Department and 18 firefighters in Fire & Rescue who work together daily to keep our city safe. To the citizens of Huntsville – you are in a safe place.

Another area that figures into public safety and infrastructure is Public Works. Through this budget, we’re able to add 29 workers to their ranks. Ten are for increasing sanitation workers to fill those ever-expanding sanitation and debris pick-up routes – to keep our city clean. The other 19 will be used to open another service area for Public Works, to have a dedicated crew to each section of town to patch roads, clear easements/ right of ways, and take care of drainage.

On the infrastructure side of the budget, we are starting to fund Restore our Roads 2. This road program is a partnership between the City of Madison, Madison County, Alabama Department of Transportation, and the Governor’s office to build, widen and improve seven roadways in the Huntsville, Madison and Madison County area.

These include:

  • Highway 72 East from I-565 to Shields
  • Jordan Lane/Highway 53 widening from Tauras Drive to Old Railroad Bed
  • I-565 six laned from Countyline Road to Wall-Triana Hwy
  • I-565 and Memorial Parkway Interchange improvements
  • Highway 72 West Providence Main to Countyline Road
  • Resolute Way Interchange (just west of Research Park Blvd)
  • East Arsenal Connector (Sparkman Drive Exit to Patton Road)

Additional infrastructure expenditures over $19 million in street maintenance and repaving and $800,000 for sidewalks. This is the most funding the City has ever budgeted for road maintenance.

Infrastructure also covers many other needs and amenities:  parks, greenways, utilities, bike paths, retail and recreational offerings. All are addressed in this document. You have a healthy and robust budget addressing infrastructure.

One of the final challenges we’ve addressed in this ordinance is our City of Huntsville workforce. During the last year, we achieved many accolades and rankings that reflect well on our city. These rankings and accolades don’t come about without a dedicated municipal workforce. This is the same workforce, while COVID-19 was running rampant during the pandemic, that came to work day in and day out. Our workforce made sure the public knew Huntsville was open for business.

With inflation cutting into the purchasing power of every dollar and fierce competition for workers, some City employees are moving elsewhere for higher wages. In turn, the search for that experienced team member is much harder. This year we are requesting a 5% cost of living pay increase (COLA) in the budget for our workforce. Five percent is in comparison to 1-, 2- and 3% COLA in the past – but these are extraordinary times. 

This budget also reflects a new Grade 24 salary schedule. This allows the top six employees in the city to participate at a level to start at $121,339 per year to a top-out rate of $205,938. Many other cities are watching the City of Huntsville. When you get a number one ranking, others see your top management as a cure for their ills; poaching is active. If we are giving our top management team members the job of managing millions of dollars and directing thousands of people, we must pay competitively.

The city that can attract and maintain the best employees will be the competitive city of the future. We have to be that city.

In summary, in this balanced budget, we address and highlight public safety, infrastructure, and employee retention. Three critical areas for the city. There are many other areas that are important, and I will ask Penny Smith, our Finance Director, to take us through a deeper dive into the budget.”

WATCH ON DEMAND:  Huntsville City Council Budget Work Session, Sept. 15, 2022

RELATED LINKS:  Mayor Battle introduces FY23 budget to City Council, Finance and Capital Budgets