Proposed Huntsville budget includes cost of living adjustment, plus funds for police & road construction

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.-- Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle proposed a balanced $398 million budget at Thursday's city council meeting.

The city's operating costs are at $197 million, he said, which is $6 million more than last year.

The numbers they're working with spell "growth" to city leaders. City Administrator John Hamilton said a 3% sales tax growth for the upcoming fiscal year, as projected, means they have enough for city operations, and also the ability to cover other increasing costs including health benefits and employee salaries.

"We've been able to make that retail pie a little bit bigger, and as we've made the retail pie a little bit bigger it reflects," commented Battle. "I think that's what this budget talks about: giving the people of Huntsville opportunity. Give them opportunity for jobs, quality of life, education, and roadways. If we can continue that growth we're seeing right now, I think we'll continue to see us being prosperous and a successful community."

The proposed budget also includes a 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all city employees.

City council members, including Jennie Robinson, wanted to know if this was something the city can keep going. "You then have to sustain it the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that," she said.

Battle assured them the city is capable of handling that additional cost.

"I'm sure we'll have to take it down to 1% again in other years," he said. "But we have the capacity [this time.]"

"We think it's important to make sure we're taking care of our people," said Hamilton. "That we have a good salary structure that allows us to hire highly qualified people and maintain those people."

The proposed budget also provides additional funding for public safety, so the Huntsville Police Department can hire seven new officers.

"It's for a lieutenant and six patrol officers to go out into the streets," said City Administrator John Hamilton. "We're also making other investments in public safety through equipment, some new fleet, and things like that which are also in this budget."

Some other highlights from the budget:

  • Funding for BIG Picture, long-range planning projects: Cummings Research Park, Urban
  • Renewal Plan (CRP East), public-private partnerships for urban core hotels near the Von Braun Center
  • Funding to support Huntsville Utilities dark fiber build-out for fiber to the home
  • $5.6 million for road resurfacing
  • $30 million in road construction (includes $25 million for Restore Our Roads)
  • $18 million for quality of life projects – greenways and bikeable/walkable multimodal corridors
  • $17.5 million for Huntsville City Schools
  • $18.8 million for outside agencies

11 new roads were also added to the 10-year capital plan:

Battle called this budget conservative and strong, making good use of taxpayer money.

"It meets the needs of the community," said Hamilton.