A $35M budget proposed for Phenix City's general fund in 2015

A $35M budget proposed for Phenix City's general fund in 2015

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - The entire Phenix City Council met Tuesday to discuss and go over the proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year. It's a budget that rings to the tune of $36 million.

Phenix City Finance Director Steve Smith says add an additional $20 million for capital improvements and $12 million for utilities upgrades for a total of about $67 million, leading councilors beginning to raise concerns about never being out of debt.

"Debt is not necessarily a good thing other than it's related to the fact that we're growing," Smith said.

One of the proposals is to push the utilities department near its borrowing max of no more than $8 million for mandatory upgrades by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We're proposing to borrow $6.5 million of that $8 million to be very conservative and to stay under the number," Smith adds. "And then we will be, as part of that, submitting to the rating agencies and trying to get our rating upgraded at that point."

From A+ to AA to match the city's credit rating, Smith adds. An additional topic of hot discussion during the session are the results of the city's pay study.

"We had a professional firm come in and look at our pay structure and salary systems," Smith explained.

The firms compared them to several surrounding cities like Columbus and Auburn. Smith tells us the group proposed changing the way they conduct citywide raises from cost-of-living increases to merit-based raises. It's something Smith says the city's already started implementing.

"We did the first phase of that over the last three years, primarily with our lower paid employees our service maintenance people and our clerical people," Smith tells us.

That cost the city more than $750,000. Smith explains this proposal will set aside more than $600,000 to roll out similar raises to department heads, saying "putting in a third of that in October, another third next April, and then the last part in October of next year."

Each issue giving councilors justification to carefully comb through each item listed in the packet.

The council will continue reviewing the budget until each department is broken down, that's covered under the city government. Once that is done, a public presentation will be given and then it will go to council for a vote. They expect that to happen some time in the coming months.

Council is expected to continue the budget review at 1 p.m.on Monday, July 14.

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