Council proposes 10 percent cuts across the board, no funding for first-time requests
By Blenda Copeland
In balancing the proposed Fiscal Year 2018-’19 budget, the Phenix City Council has discussed possibly cutting last year’s appropriations a standard 10 percent across the board in most cases.
Council discussed shielding a few organizations from cuts, suggesting to keep their appropriations the same as last year’s levels, such as: The Chattahoochee Valley Community College (CVCC) Foundation, the Lee-Russell Council of Governments (LRCoG)-Operations, the city’s bus system called PEX run by the LRCoG, Phenix City Schools (Phenix City Board of Education), the East Alabama Chamber of Commerce, and the Russell County Juvenile Probation Office.
Workforce Development is listed as not having asked for funding this time; it’s unclear how much the organization may receive, if anything.
Almost all first-time appropriations requests were suggested for denial, leaving organizations such as Knowledge Works Learning Academy Inc. (KWLA), Liberty Learning Foundation, and Survivors4Survivors Inc. with a proposed $0 in funding from the council.
Habitat for Humanity of Phenix City, the Phenix City Art Council Inc. and the Russell County Health Department were also discussed; it’s unclear if those organizations may get any funds from council.
An exception is the Phenix City Housing Authority. Discussion suggested the council was unsure what figure to award the authority, because of several unknown factors. It was mentioned that the city has already invested about $75,000 toward fixing a road related to a Housing Authority project; and that the city provides security for the authority’s housing areas. If 24th Street were also to be re-done, City Manager Wallace Hunter estimated that action could add more than $100,000 to the city’s investment commitments supporting Housing Authority’s goals.
As for organizations that usually submit formal requests but did not do so by this year’s deadline, it appears uncertain how much funding those organizations may receive, if any. A non-finalized, preliminary city-issued chart lists organizations like Keep Phenix City Beautiful, the Miss Phenix City Pageant, the local Red Cross chapter, Phenix City Sports and Events Commission, the Russell County Child Advocacy Center and Workforce Development in a contingency budget column — depending on if funds are available.
A suggestion was discussed to give $0 to the Children and Family Connection of Russell County, with the understanding that the organization can apply next year. Discussion highlighted that the council at least twice in the past has given emergency appropriations to Children and Family Connection with the understanding that the organization would not request funds for three years.
In early discussion at the council’s continued budget session June 28, City Manager Wallace Hunter said this year’s allocation requests from various local nonprofits/agencies/organizations more than doubled last year’s requests. Mayor Eddie Lowe said that equals a 103 percent increase over last year’s requests.
Also, the council discussed that if Christmas bonuses increased from $120 to $150 to all retired and current employees, it could cost around $19,050 — split between the General Fund and the Utilities budgets (they are two separate budgets) – per Human Resources Director Stephanie Chastain.
Once appropriations have been officially approved, The Citizen hopes to publish a list of organizations’ designated funds. In the meantime, see the unapproved, but proposed appropriations: www.citizenofeastalabama.com.