Metro Roundup: Birmingham 2023 budget focuses on youth, neighborhood cleanup

Birmingham officials are expecting a strong economy in fiscal 2023, predicting a 14% growth in city revenues over the next year.

The fiscal 2023 budget approved by the Birmingham City Council in late June anticipates revenues will grow by $62 million from an estimated $455 million in fiscal 2022 to $517 million in fiscal 2023, which began July 1.

General business license revenues were expected to increase by $24 million to $80.8 million, representing a 41% increase from 2022. Sales tax revenues were expected to climb by $22 million to $144 million, representing an 18% increase, and use tax revenues were predicted to grow by $10 million to $61.5 million — a 20% increase.

Lodging tax revenues were also expected to rise by $4 million to $5.6 million, which would be a 265% increase. Those estimates were based on an expected boost in hotel stays with events such as the World Games and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, city spokesman Rick Journey said.

Another notable increase in revenues expected — though dealing with smaller amounts — was a 513% increase in defensive driving school fees, from $21,459 to $131,459, and a 146% increase in fines for driving while intoxicated, from $54,919 to $134,919.

Serving youth, removing blight

On the expense side of the budget, overall expenditures were projected to rise by 7% from $484 million in 2022 to $517 million in 2023. City officials said they will continue their focus on providing services for youth, cleaning up and redeveloping neighborhoods, investing in city ​​employees and improving transportation.

The mayor and City Council added $1 million for early childhood education, $1 million for conflict resolution programs and $1 million for financial literacy for young people. They also once again provided $2 million for the Birmingham Promise program, which provides college tuition assistance for graduates of Birmingham City Schools.

The 2023 budget also included $1 million again for mental health support for schools and $210,000 for a program that provides summer jobs for youth.

The Birmingham Parks and Recreation Department also was given additional money to provide extended hours and programs for youth and families in select locations.

Cleaning up and improving neighborhoods also remains a priority, Journey said.

The mayor and council increased funding for street resurfacing from $10 million to $15 million and allocated $500,000 to launch a new strategic pavement management plan.

The mayor and council also allocated $7 million to provide uniform trash receptacles to every household at no charge. Currently, residents either use their own trash cans or simply leave bags of garbage by the road for pickup, Journey said. With animals getting into trash bags, this sometimes leads to trash strewn around the neighborhoods, he said.

The new trash receptacles will contain the garbage better and will be large enough so that trash pickup can be reduced from twice a week to once a week, reducing the cost of service, he said.

Implementation of the new trash pickup service will take place in phases, Journey said.

The budget also once again includes $2 million to demolish dilapidated houses, $1.5 million to cut properties overgrown with weeds and $275,000 for sidewalk improvements. City officials increased the budget for the Land Bank Authority, which buys and sells vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties in an effort to reduce blight, from $300,000 to $500,000, Journey said.

City employees, transportation

In an effort to show appreciation to employees and better recruit and retain employees, the city of Birmingham employees also received a 5% raise in the spring, which will cost the city an extra $11.6 million over the course of fiscal 2023, Journey said.

The mayor and council also strengthened the supplementary pension plan for police and firefighters with a $4.8 million allocation and will continue to fund 5% merit raises and longevity pay and fully fund employees’ pensions as they have done the past two years.

The budget included $2.7 million in police overtime for the World Games and $2.8 million in overtime for public works employees.

Funding for Police Department clothing was increased from $287,000 to $1.3 million following a decision to start providing uniforms for officers instead of making them purchase uniforms themselves, Journey said.

The city also is bumping up its general fund budget for the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority from $5 million to $10 million, plus increasing funding for the Birmingham On-Demand ride service from $500,000 to $1.2 million and support for Bus Rapid Transit operations from $250,000 to $1 million.