I have only known a few people whose eyes dance when it’s budget time, and Mayor Ronnie is one of them. That’s when the “teacher” in him comes out in force, he’ll jump up, head to the white board, and proceed to draw arrows, percentage marks, and explain mils. This day was no exception, and thankfully my level of fiscal ignorance was reduced once again.
“It is the law of the State of Alabama for the City Council to receive a budget, and for the City Council to pass it,” he told me. This applies to any city with a population for 12,000. Prior to voting, they have work sessions that go on for hours, and always emerge triumphant. They have to! Then the funds are released on October 1, and once again we are in the black.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some tough rows to hoe, and the waste, waste water, gas and general budgets are all gone over with a fine tooth comb. The goal is to be prepared for any and all challenges, as well as the future, just as it is with any household. Every department has a concept of what it will take to run well, and also has to balance that with the needs of the other departments. Because one of the Mayor’s responsibilities is to improve operations in each department, it is easy to understand why this process begins months before the deadline, and why it can be so daunting.
He then proceeded to tell me about the upcoming utility rate reductions. “When we lost Pilgrim’s Pride, we lost about $1.6 million, and it had to be made up. The City Council voted for rate increases that were automatic. No one liked them, and that includes me, but now we are in the position to bring them back down again. People need to understand that we mean what we say when we talk about reducing,” he said.
He also talked about the need for fleet management when it comes to sanitation. The city is going to have to find a new provider for the sanitation trucks, and there are some trucks that need to be replaced. Just ONE sanitation truck costs over $300K, and our city is growing.
There are more businesses coming in, which will be announced soon, and we are heading into Festival Season.
From the standpoint of the faith community, Friendship United Methodist Church just celebrated their 50th anniversary. The morning service focused on looking back, and the evening service focused on looking forward. Lindsay Lane is going to be able to expand its Christian School. We both wondered what churches go through in order to meet their ministerial goals, and realized that we needed to thank God for them as well as pray for strong churches everywhere if we are going to have a strong city.
So, we did. We thanked God for Athens, for churches, and for being His kids. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner