Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin presented his budget plans for 2018-2019 last Tuesday, which included cutting funding for neighborhood organizations, asking them to instead partner with the city and spend money they already have in the bank. Woodfin made the cut in order to prioritize neighborhood revitalization by increasing funding for demolition and weed abatement, sidewalks and paving roads.
“Over the last several years, more than $3.7 million in tax dollars have piled up in those association accounts untouched,” Woodfin told city councilors last Tuesday. “We’ve redirected this year’s allocation to directly invest in neighborhood revitalization…. We challenge the neighborhood associations to work with us, with the existing funds they have to address weed abatement, demolition and other neighborhood improvements.”
On Monday, the Birmingham City Council held a public hearing allowing citizens and organizations to voice their opinions about the proposed plan. There, neighborhood association officers from across the city stood up requesting to be included back in the budget.
Bettina Byrd-Giles, chair of Birmingham Sister Cities — a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering international and intercultural relationships as well as community relations in order to facilitate foreign direct investment and economic development in Birmingham — stood making such a request.
“We have been defunded. Our budget has been cut in the budget that presented on Tuesday… I’m here asking that you reconsider and put us back into the budget,” Byrd-Giles said before the council.
Mary Lynn Bates, vice president of Bridge Ministries — a faith-based non-profit that fights homeless and serves those in need — said the funding for their organization was also cut.
“I think the city needs all the help it can get to help people who are in crisis and we have a lot of expertise on that and it’s a shame if the partnership doesn’t go forward,” said Bates.
Council President Valerie Abbott said the council is not in 100% agreement with Woodfin’s proposed budget, which is why they’re holding meetings to hear from those affected by the cuts.
“You want to know what regular people think and a lot of the groups that were here to bring to our attention that they had not been funded,” explained Abbott. “We’ve been hearing from a lot of their supporters and there were a lot more people in the audience than spoke, so obviously a lot of people had supporters out there.”
The 2018-2019 budget will go into effect July 1.
Video of the full hearing below: