By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor
After attempting to pass the budget ordinance a week ahead of schedule, on Tuesday, September 19, the Gadsden City Council approved the city’s $60 million budget Tuesday, September 26 at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting.
The budget is the first passed under Mayor Craig Ford’s administration and the first city budget for Ford’s Chief of Staff Brett Johnson.
The budget, which takes effect October 1, reflects an increase over the city’s 2023 budget, which was passed at $56.64 million. It also reflects an increase in salaries for full time and part time employees and adds several new full times positions around the city.
The budget was presented for first reading September 19, and a motion was made for immediate consideration to allow for the pay raises for city employees to go in to effect starting in October. Councilwoman Dixie Minatra brought the motion, explaining that it would give the human resource department more time to get all of the changes in pay structures made.
The motion was seconded, but when it came time to vote, Councilman Larry Avery abstained, causing confusion among city leaders. After a 10-minute recess was called so the rules of voting could be examined, City Clerk Iva Nelson and others looked up the rules of procedure, but confusion still remained about whether an abstention counted toward the vote, which is required to be unanimous for consideration. A compromise was reached and Minatra withdrew her motion when the meeting resumed so the business could continue.
At the time, Avery said he had unanswered questions about the budget. He voted in favor of it on Tuesday.
The budget breakdown is $8,442,200 for special revenue fund, $6,750,331 for debt service fund, $15,698,517 for enterprise and internal service funds, $9,200,000 for capital projects fund and $8,500,000 for capital projects II funds.
The passing of the budget a quick vote by the Gadsden City Council. Councilman Jason Wilson motioned for the approval and Councilman Steve Smith seconded the motion. With all members present, the ordinance passed unanimously.
“I want to thank everyone for passing the Gadsden F.I.R.S.T. budget,” Ford said. “I want us all to take credit. We passed the employees $2 million in pay raises. I think that is something that every one of us need be proud of. It lets us know where this council and the mayor’s office stands. We support our employees. Thank you to you all [city council] and thank you to Brett [Johnson] and Brandon [Phillips, the city’s finance director]. Yes, we did make mistakes. I did. I’ll take full credit [for the mistakes]. But Brandon, good job. We want to thank you and we want to thank Lisa Rosser.”
F.I.R.S.T. is an acronym for “Focusing on Internal Resources, Services and Training,” which is something Ford has supported since being elected.
Following the vote and remarks from the mayor and council, Ford left Gadsden for Washington, D.C. to discuss the proposed redrawing of the voting districts in Alabama.