$2.7M balance shows city finances strong

Posted 11/12/17

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary spoke in-depth earlier this week about the state of the city’s finances. His presentation showed the city will end fiscal year 2017 with a $2.7 million …

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$2.7M balance shows city finances strong


Jasper Mayor David O’Mary spoke in-depth earlier this week about the state of the city’s finances. His presentation showed the city will end fiscal year 2017 with a $2.7 million balance.

That’s an incredible number considering the financial atmosphere for our area. A year ago, the city projected a $800,000 deficit for this fiscal year, but it ended this budget with a nearly $1.3 surplus. Combining that surplus with the $1.4 million balance at the beginning of the year is what equals the 2017 balance of $2.7 million.

That shows sound fiscal management is taking place. It also shows through an expected $500,000 in additional revenue for the year that our economy is making a turn for the better.

“As we gather here today, I want to fulfill a promise I made in my first meeting last October when I shared with you that the city would have a very good year from an operating perspective,” O’Mary said Tuesday during a meeting of the Jasper City Council.

O’Mary and the city council did exactly that. They worked together to streamline some things to make the city’s government operations run smoother and more efficient.

The 2017 surplus also came about with no layoffs, no reduction in services and city employees received a raise.

According to O’Mary, much of the credit for the successful financial year should be given to City Clerk Kathy Chambless.

“We brought our chief financial officer front and center,” O’Mary said. “I can’t tell you the creative thinking she’s done that’s allowed us to have the success that we’ve had this year.”

Bringing together a leadership group of city workers was also a reason for success, according to O’Mary. The mayor was quick to say everything that has been done in the last year was to help taxpayers and city workers. That’s what we need from all our government entities.

“I told the people that if you elect me, I’ll go to work for you,” O’Mary added, “and I’ve worked every day to benefit this city.”

The revenue growth for the year has come from a variety of areas, including a 2.85 percent increase in sales tax. That number is nearly 0.5 percent higher than in 2017. The city also added revenue by adding a diesel fuel tax and a gas tax, as well as requiring business licenses on rental properties.

The few minor hikes in tax had little or no impact on the average citizen, but did help increase funding for the city.

Many positive things are happening in Jasper, and the $2.7 balance on the city’s budget is a reflection of that. With the added revenue, the city should be able to invest more in projects that have shown great success in recent years.

Funding for the Jasper Industrial Development Board should be back at its previous levels or increased, because that group, in combination with the Walker County Development Authority, has shown it can bring jobs to our area if properly funded.

Funding should also be increased for the annual Foothills Festival. Even with a significant cut in its budget for 2017, the festival drew more than 20,000 people to downtown Jasper. If its funding levels are increased back to where it was in 2016, the signature event for the city can continue to grow and improve.

I’m sure each of us has a “wish list” of areas where the city can use some of its surplus funds, but the important thing to realize is the fact that there is a surplus. That fact is only possible through the hard work of the mayor, city council and city employees. There are times when a newspaper publisher has to wag a finger at city officials, and there are times when that same publisher needs to pat them on the back. This is the pat on the back. Good job.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.