Mayor to legislators: General Fund balance at $3.8M

Officials with the City of Jasper met with area legislators at city hall Monday for an information exchange over lunch. The purpose of the meeting was to give legislators a midterm update on the financial shape of the city. “Our legislators do a tremendous job in representing our city in Montgomery,” Jasper Mayor David O’Mary said. “We do our best to keep them as updated as possible on things that we feel are important for them to know as they work in the Legislature. O’Mary shared the city’s current General Fund balance, which is at $3,815,000 as of Sept. 30. The mayor said that was a 269 percent increase from the Sept. 2016 General Fund balance of $1,419,000. O’Mary called that balance “unprecedented” in Jasper. O’Mary will again present those financial numbers to city council members and residents today at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Jasper City Council. “Our city has made some great strides financially in recent years,” O’Mary said. “Those improvements are thanks to the work of everyone at our city. It is not just about one person. It is about all of us working together toward a common goal.” During the discussion with Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and Rep. Connie Cooner Rowe (R-Jasper), O’Mary stressed that the city’s strong financial situation should allow them to continue to make improvements needed across Jasper. O’Mary stressed that technology improvements would be vital in the coming years. “We want to be a city of the future,” O’Mary said. “I’m not interested in being a city of the past. We should celebrate our past, but in order to position ourself where we need to be for the future, we have got to make some improvements as far as technology in the area.” O’Mary did not talk specific technological upgrades, saying those would be addressed with the city council as officials continue to do their homework on specific needs for the city.

In the paperwork handed out by the city to legislators, several items were highlighted. One item as a breakdown of more than $11 million in improvements made in the past year from a bond issued in late 2017. Those improvements include $7 million in paving improvements, $1 million in storm water drainage, $1 million in building improvements, $1 million in new equipment and $1.2 million for Airport Road projects. The handout also showed that city employees have been given raises twice in 2017 and twice in 2018. The starting pay for police officers and firefighters have increased from $28,500 in Nov. 2016 to $33,500 in Nov. 2018. The handouts also mentioned more than $100,000 in safety equipment and $300,000 in new vehicles purchased for the police and fire departments. It also mentioned the creation of a compliance officer position for the city, which increased revenue by $150,000 in the first year. Rowe, a lifelong resident of Jasper, said she appreciated the update on the city’s finances. “It is refreshing to work with a municipal government that has a well-defined strategy on the table to move the city ahead,” Rowe said. “There certainly seems like a great deal of effort has been put into the financial part of managing the city, but to be in a place where you can look forward is just a fabulous thing.” Rowe also said what happens in Jasper is central to her district, a fact that Reed also addressed. “In many regards, the success of Jasper and Walker County has an impact through my whole five-county district,” Reed said. “There is a lot of relationship growth that we’ve seen with important players, such as Bevill State Community College, Alabama Power and economic development at the state level. We have also seen growth with significant employers within the city. “The one thing I see with the city moving forward is that when you have a collaborative effort and a cooperative motion under a plan and a strategy that is accepted and approved by all that are involved, everyone tries to know there part,” Reed added. “As you move out for accomplishment, it puts yourself in a place where you can really get good things done. I think that is where we are headed with the City of Jasper and with Walker County.”