Sequestration Takes Spotlight At Huntsville City Council Meeting

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Sequestration. The one word that’s creating uncertainty in so many sectors of north Alabama right now, including important spending decisions by the city of Huntsville.

The potentially massive defense cuts took center stage at Thursday night’s city council meeting. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle informed council members that they’ll need to tighten the reins on city expenditures until there’s a more definitive outlook from Washington.

Mayor Battle will head to the nation’s capital next week to meet with congressional leaders about the potential impact of sequestration on Redstone Arsenal and its surrounding defense contractors. One recent study showed Alabama could lose up to 40,000 jobs if the cuts take effect, which would have a significant impact on city sales tax revenue.

“Across the board we’re feeling a lot of pressure on our budget,” said Mayor Battle. “We’re going to use all the tools we have to slow down this spending that is happening right now because we’re also in the same situation of not knowing of what’s going to happen in Washington.”

Councilman John Olshefski is a former garrison commander at Redstone Arsenal, and warned that the domino effect defense cuts could have on tax revenue the city collects would impact both long-term spending projects and day-to-day city services. A visibly animated Olshefski showed frustration over his belief that many area residents are apathetic and unaware about the pending cuts.

“We got like eight people here [tonight],” said Olshefski. “I pray there’s some people watching TV, but what we need is more people writing our congressmen, our senators and all the above. The mayor is carrying our water, but he’s just one guy.”

Councilman Bill Kling also raised concerns over national security risks posed by sequestration.

“It [defense spending] is not a nice thing to have just for creating jobs,” said Kling. “It is a necessity for literally the survival of our country. If we don’t have a strong national defense, we’re going to be very vulnerable.”

Also on Thursday, council members announced that the city government had once again received a AAA bond rating from S&P, the highest possible score a municipality can earn. Moody’s will announce its rating score for the city of Huntsville tomorrow.