Huntsville city leaders discuss proposed $245M operating budget

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and city finance officials presented their $245 million budget proposal to the city council Thursday night.

The budget includes increases in spending for the police and fire departments as well as pay increases for city employees.

The mayor wants to add 111 new positions to the city’s workforce. However, with an ongoing labor shortage, the city will have to get creative to fill those positions.

“We may have to offer someone higher than that minimum entry level if that’s what it takes to get the talent that you need to keep us competitive,” city administrator John Hamilton said at Thursday’s work session.

The city will increase spending in the police department by 2.8%. The department will get 28 new positions, which will include both civilians and sworn officers. The funding also includes the creation of a unit to respond to mental health calls and calls involving the homeless population. During last week’s city council meeting, Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray said his community resource officers are currently being pulled away from their jobs to respond to to those types of calls.

Huntsville Fire and Rescue will also see a funding increase. The department will get 24 new positions as well as money for a new fire station in the western part of the city.

City Finance Director Penny Smith says the city also plans to earmark $300,000 for HEMSI. This would be the first time that the city has appropriated money out of the general fund for HEMSI. City councilmember John Meredith asked why HEMSI needed the money. Smith says the funds will help the ambulance service during the pandemic.

“With masks and other things that are involved with a pandemic, HEMSI gave out a lot of those items. So now they need to restock their inventory so that they can prepare for the next phase,” Smith said.

Other highlights of the budget include funding for the construction of a new city hall, a new administrative building for Huntsville City Schools, and the hiring of 35 new Parks and Recreation employees.

You can read the full FY2022 proposed budget here.

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