Council approves $16.4 million budget

The Muscle Shoals City Council on Monday approved its 2010 fiscal year budget of $16.4 million, down from $17.2 million the previous year.

Mayor David Bradford said the figure is a reflection of the tough economic times that have plagued the Shoals and the nation for the past 18 months.

“Our primary concern with the budget was keeping health insurance in tact with the same plan, deductibles and co-pays for our employees,” he said, referring to the fact that Muscle Shoals is one of three cities in Alabama that pays its employees’ health-related costs. “We also wanted to be able to maintain our current services.”

In order to keep health costs covered, however, employees sacrificed annual raises. It’s the second time in more than 20 years Muscle Shoals employees have not received raises.

To Steve Tumlinson, assistant superintendent of the street and sanitation department for the city, it was a trade-off he was willing to make.

“In the long run, (health insurance) will be worth more,” he said. “But it’s the same everywhere because revenue is down.”

Before Monday’s adoption of the budget, the council conducted a budget hearing to determine how each dollar was allotted. Going into the year, Bradford said he knew it would be difficult as there were some capital outlay expenses scheduled for the year, including matching funds for infrastructure grants and the purchase of bullet-proof vests for the police department.

“We don’t want to take on anything we can’t continue to do,” he said. “But I believe we did the best we could do under the circumstances.”

The council decided to suspend the annual City Fest until a time when money isn’t as tight. Bradford said all department heads were asked to trim their budgets to bare necessities. Many responded by slashing travel, office supplies and subscription costs, he said.

Councilman Joe Pampinto zeroed in on the miscellaneous line items in each of the city department budgets as ways to shave potential costs.

“When I see a miscellaneous item of $11,000 or $18,000, I want to make sure we’re not misclassifying things,” he said. “When I look an employee in the face and tell him he’s not getting a raise, I want to make sure every dollar is accounted for.”

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