SPANISH FORT – After several months of preparation compounded by the pandemic and storms, Spanish Fort is getting ready to approve the city budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The budget includes a total of $13.7 million in expenses, up from about $12.24 million in the last spending plan approved in October 2019.
During election years, such as 2020, municipalities often postpone new budgets until the new term begins for the mayor and City Council.
Mayor Mike McMillan said the 2020-21 budget was also complicated by other factors, such as COVID-19 and the pandemic’s effect on the economy, as well as storms such as Hurricane Sally.
“It was a challenge this year,” McMillan said. “Normally, we adopt this budget in August or September and of course without having to go through all the particulars about why this was a challenge, you all know what they were. To get three or four months into the budget to create a budget, it gets to be a little difficult because you have to backtrack with what you've done and what you've got going on.”
He said the city will now start work on the 2021-22 budget.
“It was definitely, in my eight-plus years of putting budgets together, my hardest one I've ever had to deal with,” he said. “The basic part about it is as soon as this council does approve a budget, hopefully it's this one, within three or four months, we'll be working on the next one.”
He said the City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at the Feb. 15 meeting. Copies of the budget are available for inspection at City Hall. Residents may also make copies of the plan at a cost of $1 per page, city officials said.
The draft budget includes an anticipated revenue of more than $10.4 million. Ten percent of that total is set aside each year as a reserve. Last year’s budget set revenue estimates at almost $9.74 million.
The city also has a “carry-over,” of money left from the 2019-20 budget of about $1.26 million. Other funds being transferred into the budget total almost $3.1 million.
The upcoming budget includes a 2.5 percent raise for employees and a 1.6 percent Cost of Living Adjustment.
McMillan said the city is also shifting money from a health trust account to the salaries of city employees. The money will still go to pay health care costs but will now be included in the amount used to calculate retirement benefits. The amount employees much pay in matching medical costs was also reduced.
“It's a better package all in all,” McMillan said. “I guess it costs the city a little bit more, but we have made those changes that we talked about.”
Other expenses include $1 million for the Spanish Fort Volunteer Fire Department, up from $800,000 in the previous budget and additional funding for the Police Department.
The city has also budgeted $675,000 for environmental projects, McMillan said.