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Proposed city budget has 2 percent spending cut

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Decatur’s proposed 2008 operating budget cuts spending by more than 2 percent from 2007.

But city officials say the budget’s modest revenue predictions, combined with the potential for economic growth from the Base Realignment and Closure process, will likely leave a healthy surplus next year.

Analysts predict incoming government programs at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal will bring thousands of jobs to the Tennessee Valley and more than $500 million in additional payroll by 2011.

While Decatur is expected to capture a percentage of that growth, Mayor Don Kyle and Chief Financial Officer Gail Busbey said they did not include the BRAC potential in this year’s budget.

“You never estimate a growth and project to spend that growth in the coming year,” Kyle said. “That way by the end of 2008, we should have another surplus.”

Kyle said surplus money in the previous three years kept the city from borrowing more than $7 million for capital improvements.

Overall, the proposed 2008 budget calls for more than $53.7 million in spending, down from $54.9 million last year, a difference of more than $1.1 million.

Busbey and Kyle met Monday evening with members of the City Council to discuss the proposals.

Council President Billy Jackson, District 1, said after the meeting he was pleased overall with the budget but there could be a change concerning a proposal to hire a new employee for the Information Systems Department before it is approved.

‘Work very well’

“I think it was very conservative. We always try to put together a conservative budget,” he said. “And I think it’s going to work very well for the city.”

The council will vote on the budget in a special meeting at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Key items in the budget include more than $1.5 million for street-resurfacing projects. Busbey said that money came from state gasoline-tax appropriations saved over the past three years.

Funding for Point Mallard Park will increase by $259,553 for 2008, up to $3.77 million. Kyle said that was because of increased revenues taken in by the park in 2007.

Funding for non-profit agencies supported by the city drops by $5,000 in the proposed budget. That included the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts, which dropped from $70,000 annually in the 2007 budget to zero in 2008.

Busbey said theater officials informed the city earlier this year that they would be unable to continue making payments in 2008 on a debt exceeding $85,000. The city is taking over payments on the debt, but cutting funding to the theater to make up the difference, she said.

The budget also includes $317,975 to pay the city’s portion of a $4.7 million debt associated with the Crossings of Decatur shopping center, where Target is expected to open next month.

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