Hoover mayor calls for action amid financial uncertainty

HOOVER – Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato will work with the City Council’s Finance Committee in the coming weeks to develop a plan to address financial issues.

Brocato said at the Monday, April 16, City Council meeting that he wants to work with the committee to bring some sort of measure before the Council for a vote in May as staff begins the budgeting process for the coming fiscal year.

“We must make sure our city stays financially healthy,” Brocato said during a lengthy speech to the Council—and a large audience—at the meeting, reviewing financial projections and calling on the Council to take action.

Hoover finance officials first raised a flag about the city’s expenses outpacing revenue growth, Brocato said.

A study performed by Porter White & Company arrived at the same conclusions, finding that Hoover’s cash flow could drop below zero during the current fiscal year, requiring officials to draw on reserves to balance the budget.

Debt undertaken for the construction of the Finley Center, about 30 new positions associated with the center and increased financial support of Hoover City Schools are factors that magnified an issue that had been growing with a shrinking sales tax base largely due to online shopping.

Brocato said officials recognized the need to “change the spending culture,” and he has worked during his first 18 months in office to trim expenses. The mayor noted restructuring departments, purchasing approval, energy management, payroll and overtime, fleet management, bid specifications, health care coverage and travel costs as areas that have addressed for cutting expenses.

Hoover has discontinued its July Fourth fireworks show and has not filled 44 open positions among these efforts, Brocato said.

“We continue to challenge our department heads every day to reduce operating costs,” Brocato said but added that he does not think Hoover can “cut our way out of this without changing our city.”

Brocato mentioned forfeiture of economic momentum, deterioration of city buildings and parks, and declining quality of services for residents as potential drawbacks to excessive reduction of expenses.

The mayor also mentioned two recent assaults on police officers as evidence that the city’s commitment to public safety must be maintained.

“We’ve got to do what’s right for Hoover,” Brocato said and then asked Council John Lyda to convene the Finance Committee some time in the next two weeks to develop along with the mayor a measure to be brought before the Council. “It’s time to act.”

Lyda agreed, and the Council encouraged the many residents in attendance to let their opinions be known to the Committee.

Two residents spoke about the situation during the public comment period at the end of the meeting.

One said he was not in favor of a 1-cent sales tax increase, which he thought was the obvious step being considered by officials, though the Council denied that any measure had been agreed upon.

The other resident said he would accept a tax increase if it was needed for the continuation of the services residents have come to expect.