DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - The City of Decatur faces a huge budget shortfall next year. This is the time of year when local governments are knee-deep in financial planning for the following year, and Decatur faces some big problems. Everyone knows there will probably be cuts. The question is where, and how much?
Right now, the deficit looks like it could be more than $1.6 million. We spoke with Mayor Don Kyle Thursday afternoon and he explained expenses are up while revenue is flat. In other words, it's not keeping up with the rising cost of running the city. The end result is red ink.
"Frankly, it's one of the more difficult budgets I've ever dealt with," Kyle told WHNT News 19.
Mayor Kyle says the city's revenue streams are flat while the cost of operating the city continues to increase. Among the largest cost increases is personnel. Employees are looking forward to a merit increase this year, but that might not happen.
"I would rather take the heat for cutting or eliminating the merit increase than have to eliminate five or six filled positions in order to make that merit increase," Kyle said.
Roughly half of the city's employees qualify for a merit system increase in pay this year. If finances were on track, that would amount to a 5% increase. But right now, there's a lot of uncertainty.
"Our guys are concerned about what's going on. I want our guys focused on the emergency right now, the fire that they're on, the medical emergency, whatever it is. I don't want them worried about budgets, about cuts, about whether or not we're going to have staffing to be able to safely operate at an incident and I think that's kind of where we've come to," says Lt. Brandon Strickland of Decatur Fire & Rescue.
"But the reality is a 5% merit increase for half of our employee force adds more to our budget than our revenues increase a year right now," Kyle said.
Kyle says he and the council are still going over the proposed budget. It may be several weeks before a proposal is brought up for a vote.