Foley council approves FY22 budget

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 9/15/21

FOLEY - The Foley council has approved the FY22 budget, one Mayor Ralph Hellmich called “balanced.”

“It’s fiscally conservative yet it is aggressive in many ways,” said Hellmich. …

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Foley council approves FY22 budget

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FOLEY - The Foley council has approved the FY22 budget, one Mayor Ralph Hellmich called “balanced.”

“It’s fiscally conservative yet it is aggressive in many ways,” said Hellmich. “We’re adopting quite a few projects, hiring new personnel because of the growth of the city, and I think in discussions with all of the council we all recognized that the growth of our area demands that we do things to keep up for our quality of life.”

Hellmich said creating the FY22 budget was challenging due to all the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021. He said determining what is normal is extremely difficult when considering the COVID-19 pandemic and expenses and revenues caused by Hurricane Sally. City Administrator Mike Thompson agreed.

“The FY22 budget is both a conservative budget from a revenue perspective, but it’s also an aggressive budget in terms of trying to address our growth needs in our city,” Thompson said. “One thing that we’re doing to try to improve our service level is bringing commercial sanitation inhouse. As the council knows we’ve done that via franchise for years and years, and this budget has us bringing that commercial sanitation work inhouse to be run by our Public Works Department.”

Thompson said when budgeting revenues for FY22, he feels staff has developed a conservative budget, one that actually drops from FY21 by approximately $4.6 million.

“That seems odd in a growing city, but realize two things. First of all in the general fund budget, we’ve moved $2 million of revenue for our residential sanitation out of general fund into a separate sanitation fund,” Thompson said. “Both the commercial that we’re bringing inhouse and the residential sanitation is going to be in its own fund, so when I say we’re down $4.6 million, we’re really only down about $2.6 million because $2 million is that residential sanitation revenue that we’ve moved.”

He said while a $2.6 million reduction from FY21 revenue still sounds odd in a growing city, the staff took into consideration the revenue that came in due to Hurricane Sally recovery efforts. Thompson said between October 2020 - January 2021, Foley hotels were virtually at full capacity with workers, and there was an increase of sales tax in terms of recovery efforts during that time.

“So yes, we’re forecasting a reduction in revenue, because we want to be conservative and not overstate what kind of revenue growth we see this year because we don’t know that it’s 100 percent sure for next year,” said Thompson.

When discussing city employees, Thompson said the budget accommodates substantial growth within city personnel. The FY22 budget has a new head count total of 26.5 people, or approximately a 6 percent growth over what the city will close FY21 at. Seven new employees will be associated with the new inhouse commercial sanitation department, six positions will be in the street department, one executive director position, four in the fire department, one in the library, one in community development, one in general government, one in marketing, one in recreation, two in sports tourism, and two in the nature department.

“The distribution of that head count is pretty broad across the city and that’s going to help a lot of these departments to prepare for the continued growth that we see happening in our city,” Thompson said. “Last year our budget for FY21 had a closing in terms of fulltime head count of 310 people, so we should be around 337 with this budget.”

The FY22 budget has $3.5 million of new capital equipment to be funded. One million will be allotted to outfitting the commercial sanitation department, with the remaining $2.5 million to go towards other capital equipment purchases. In comparison, the FY21 budget had approximately $2 million budgeted for capital equipment purchases.

Thompson said he feels the budgeted capital projects for FY22 are aggressive, with roughly $24 million worth of capital projects budgeted. Of that, $11 million will be funded through grant dollars the city has either received or is applying for, with $13 million coming from the city’s general fund. The FY21 budget only had approximately $11.5 million of capital projects, meaning capital projects in the FY22 budget will double from the previous year.

Major capital projects include the Juniper Street extension, the Foley Beach Express safety project including shoulder widening and repaving, general resurfacing projects, the Highway 59/County Road 12 intersection improvements with mast arms and additional turn lanes, the first responder saferoom which will house slightly over 200 first responders during storm events, a County Road 20 extension planned in partnership with Baldwin County (if grant is awarded to county), sidewalks along Highway 59, creating wetlands in the Bon Secour Regional Wetland Water Quality project, creating designs for a new public library with hopes to see the new library built the following year during FY23, and various stormwater projects throughout the city.

“I feel this budget is very conservative in revenues, I feel confident that we will beat our budget with revenues, but again, it is an aggressive budget from an expense perspective,” Thompson said. “But I think it’s a budget we need because of the growth that we’re seeing as a city.”

Hellmich added that the city is set to soon receive over $10 million in reimbursements due to Hurricane Sally recovery efforts, which will go into the bank to bring FY21 to a strong close.

“So even with this aggressive balanced budget, we may be bringing some additional projects forward,” Hellmich said. “Keep in mind we have had an exceptionally good year, I don’t know when it’s going to slow down, it’s hard to foretell the future in this current world, but if we have another year like this year we’re going to continue to bring these projects like drainage and road projects forward from our strategic plans and to address the problems that our citizens bring forward to us.”