Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson has released his budget proposal for 2015. The proposal includes a pay increase for public employees, and a 400% increase in spending on capital projects. In a move that is sure to stir controversy, the budget cuts money to some non-profit organizations.
City employees would get a 2.5% cost of living raise, and a 2.5% merit raise. City employees have not had a raise the past few years, and have also faced growing insurance costs.
Non-profits that could be affected include Bayfest, the Exploreum, the Boys and Girls Club, the Penelope House, and the Child Advocacy Center. Stimpson suggest the groups seek funding from the likes of United Way and The Community Foundation of South Alabama, which will receive $1.2 million from the city.
Reaction from city council has been mixed. Councilman Fred Richardson applauded the raise for city employees that was supposed to go in last year. Council members are still reviewing the cuts to the non-profits.
Cities across the nation have faced dire budget situations since the financial crisis hit back in 2008. Mobile has been no different, having to pass a penny sales tax the past few years to balance the budget. While budget cuts are popular in theory in the conservative South, they are almost always less popular once the cuts are announced. People are generally in favor of cuts until something they like or use gets cut.
While cuts are designed to balance budgets, they can have negative side effects. Most economists believe that budget cuts at the federal level the past few years have weakened economic growth. The same could happen in Mobile. Bayfest could see have its funding from the city cut, which would hurt its ability to put on a good show. The event is a big money maker for the city, drawing thousands of people to the streets of downtown Mobile each year.
There will be a public hearing on the budget on September 2nd at 5:30 PM. Concerned citizens should attend and have their voices heard.
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