Hoover approves budget five months into fiscal year

HOOVER – The Hoover City Council approved a budget for the fiscal year that began in October 2016 at a meeting on March 6.

The budgeting process was delayed because of the transition to a new mayor and council following the 2016 municipal election, but Mayor Frank Brocato told the council that he is committed to producing a budget “on time” for the next fiscal year.

Brocato’s proposed budget included a revenue projection of $112.3 million, an increase of $6.2 million over the previous budget.

The budget also includes an additional $3 million for Hoover City Schools and $3.5 million more for personnel expenditures, including $2 million for health insurance increases and $1 million for employee pay raises.

Brocato proposed $9.3 million in additional capital projects funds, and there were several items related to the construction and opening of the Finley Center, including $4 million in new debt service and a $1.2 million pre-opening budget for the facility.

The budget calls for a surplus of $454,067 and a fund balance of about $32 million at the end of the fiscal year.

Prior to voting on the budget, Councilman John Lyda pointed out that overtime spending was cut by 18 percent overall in the budget and as much as 66 percent in some areas.

Hoover Executive Director Allan Rice said there was uncertainty about the administration’s ability to track how overtime hours were spent but that he hopes an improved process for reporting overtime will allow officials to budget more accurately in the future.

Rice also ensured the council and residents that the city’s public safety departments would have the resources they need.

“We will meet the public safety needs of our city, but we have to be prudent in how we do that,” Rice said.

Lyda also questioned funds budgeted for social media promotion, and asked whether administration officials had previous relationships with The Lollar Group, which is providing social media and public relations services for the city.

Brocato said he worked with The Lollar Group during his campaign.

Lyda said he was concerned that The Lollar Group was producing posts to a Facebook page that is controlled by the city but features the mayor.

“I have a concern that we’re running an individual page with taxpayer dollars,” Lyda said.

Rice said the services provided by The Lollar Group are on a month-to-month basis and are not subject to bid law. Rice and Brocato said the company is being used in part because it is based in Hoover.

Other questions posed by councilmembers included what a $150,000 staffing review would entail and the amount of contributions budgeted for non-profit organizations.

Lyda moved to approve an amended budget, with items regarding the city’s contribution to Crime Stoppers and an increase in the salary for the municipal court judge removed.

The amended budget was approved unanimously, and Council President Gene Smith thanked those who worked to produce the budget.

The Council continued a decision about the Crime Stoppers contribution to its next meeting, on March 20.

Lyda moved that the Council consider increasing the municipal court judge’s salary from $80,000 to $88,000 a year.

Brocato’s original budget proposal included a raise to $100,000, but the proposal approved by the council had removed the raise.

Councilman Mike Shaw said the $88,000 annual salary would be in line with other department heads, and the raise was approved by a vote of 6-1.

Councilman John Greene voted against the raise after saying he had researched the salaries of municipal court judges and found that Hoover’s judge was already the highest paid in Alabama.