Council gets update on city’s finances

Posted 11/8/17

By RON HARRIS

Daily Mountain Eagle

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary provided a positive outlook on the city’s finances during a presentation made at Tuesday’s Jasper City Council …

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Council gets update on city’s finances

Posted

By RON HARRIS

Daily Mountain Eagle

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary provided a positive outlook on the city’s finances during a presentation made at Tuesday’s Jasper City Council meeting.

O’Mary, who today marks one year as mayor, presented an in-depth look at how well the city’s financial status has improved compared to fiscal 2016.

“As we gather here today, I want to fulfil 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.

According to figures released by O’Mary, the city finished fiscal 2017 with a General Fund balance of $2,710,000 after beginning the fiscal year with a balance of $1,420,000. Conversely, the General Fund balance for fiscal 2016 marked just a $150,000 increase over the previous year.

Revenue increased more than $500,000 in fiscal 2017 — up from $23,300,000 in fiscal 2016 to $28,850,000. Expenditures, meanwhile, dropped $590,000 from $23,150,000 in fiscal 2016 to $22,560,000 in fiscal 2017.

The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

“Unfortunately, there are some governmental entities in our community that are challenged,” O’Mary said, “and I hate that and wish the best for them.”

O’Mary said when he first took office he knew hard work lay ahead.

“When I was running for office, I gathered information and put my hands around things that I felt attention and things I definitely wanted to work on,” O’Mary said. “I said that if I got elected, I certainly would work on those things.”

O’Mary played a pivotal role in the formation of the city’s 2017 budget, starting work two weeks prior to officially being sworn in as mayor on Nov. 8, 2016.

O’Mary said he and city clerk Kathy Chambless sat down to look over the prospect of a budget for fiscal 2017, “and what we discovered was that without drastic changes, we would operate with a significant deficit spending,” he said. “My position was that that would be unacceptable.”

Working to correct that included “making painful cuts, trying to get the city to operate on a break-even basis,” he added.

One of the first moves after taking office was to increase the role of 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.”

O’Mary said he also brought together a leadership group comprised of city department heads to talk about where the city was financially. Among the topics discussed with the leadership group was where the city was financially, reserve balances and how that needed to grow, and the consequences of not managing finances properly.

“We talked about how if we ran the city correctly, it would help the taxpayers and everybody working for the city.”

“I’m pleased to tell you everyone bought in and took that message to the employees of the city,” O’Mary said. “They bought in that we have to run this city with a firm grip on this city’s finances,” O’Mary said.

Chambless said among the positive aspects of finances over the past fiscal year included a sales tax increase of 2.85 percent. “That’s a pretty good increase,” Chambless said. “We’ve seen better, but we’re pleased with 2.85 percent in growth. Revenue growth was at 2.36 percent.

The city also added revenue increasing measures that included a diesel fuel tax, as well as small gas tax. Business license on rental property were required, and that added approximately $200,000, Chambless reported.

In all, the city lowered expenses by 2.5 percent over 2016.

The plan proposed by O’Mary was instituted in January. “I’m pleased to tell you that plan is in place today and it’s alive and will guide us in everything we do in 2018,” he said. “I think the dividends from that will be significant in 2018.”

Each department in the city, O’Mary said, operated within its budget. “That’s an absolute must,” he said.

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

In other business, council members:

•approved minutes of the Oct. 17 meeting.

•recognized the Jasper High volleyball team for the 2017 season — the most successful volleyball season in school history.

O’Mary read a proclamation that said the team “exhibited a great deal of natural ability, character and an outstanding spirit of enthusiasm as team members.”

The Lady Vikings finished the season with a 57-5 record and a second-place finish in the Class 6A state tournament last week.

The Lady Vikings won 30 consecutive matches during the season, as well as several tournaments titles, including the inaugural Don Drummond Invitational hosted by the team.

O’Mary said the team brought “positive, favorable publicity” to the city.

•presented a proclamation declaring Nov. 30 as Juvenile Myositis Day in the city. O’Mary presented the proclamation to Brylee Smith, Destiny Atkins and Alexa Gardner, three young ladies who live in Jasper and suffer from the debilitating disease.

Juvenile Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease of the muscle, skin and blood vessels that affects about 3 in 1 million children each year. It primarily affects young females.

•approved parade permits for:

— the city’s annual Festival of Lights, which begins Nov. 24 on the courthouse square from 4 until 7 p.m.

— the annual Christmas parade sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

— the 12th annual Lee’s Jingle Bell run, set for Saturday, Dec. 9, beginning at 9 a.m. on the courthouse square. The run is held in memory of Lee Smith, the late husband of council member Jennifer Williams Smith.

— a Children’s Theater on the Square program, set for March 17, 2018, sponsored by the Walker County Arts Alliance and Athletic Arts Center.

•introduced an amendment to the city’s budget to provide city employees with a pay increase sooner than was initially planned. The amendment was requested by the council.

•approved a request to purchase a Kubota farm tractor and Land Pride boom cutting deck — at a total cost of $95,308.03 — with proceeds from a 2017 bond issuance.

•approved travel to Tuskegee for the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association state volleyball tournament Saturday for members of the Jasper Parks and Recreation Department.

•approved use of equipment and employees to deliver collection boxes for the annual Christmas toy drive.

•approved up to two steps into the pay grade for experience for a Grade 21 position.

•adopted a resolution to place several properties under the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance for overgrown grass and weeds.

•adopted a resolution to allow for demolition of a structure on property owned by the Salvation Army of Walker County. The structure is a former car wash on the corner of 20th Street and Birmingham Avenue.

•introduced an ordinance to declare real property as surplus. O’Mary said the property is located on the west side of North Walston Bridge Road.

•heard from District 5 resident James Hood, who complained of issues needing addressed in his district.