By Crystal McGough, For The Tribune
IRONDALE – Members of the Irondale City Council met for a finance committee meeting prior to Tuesday’s regularly scheduled city council meeting to discuss questions and concerns over Mayor James D. Stewart Jr.’s proposed 2022-2023 budget.
Councilperson Cindy Cuellar raised several questions about line items such as administrative health insurance – which was showing its budgeted amount at $0 – worker’s comp insurance, management consulting services, funds designated to public schools, and the fuel budget for the police, fire and public works departments. Additionally, Cuellar had her own amended form of the budget that she had prepared to present to the council.
“What I’m asking is that we get back to the way it always has been, where the council meets in a finance committee meeting with the mayor and the department heads and talk about some of the major (items) that have been identified here to get answers to the questions,” she said. “I am not comfortable with approving a budget without being informed, without having answers to questions.”
During the regular meeting, Cuellar had the opportunity to ask her questions to Mayor Stewart and some of the department heads. In response to her question concerning administrative health insurance, that line item was amended to $70,000.
Once Cuellar and the rest of the council were satisfied that all questions had been answered, the council proceeded to unanimously approve its 22-23 fiscal year budget under the consent agenda. Resolutions 2022-R-175, 2022-R-176, 2022-R-177, 2022-R-178 and 2022-R-179 approved budgets for the General Fund, Capital, Water Department, E-911 and Court. The overall budget leaves the city with a proposed surplus of $3,584,512.34 for the 22-23 fiscal year.
Under the regular agenda, in a 4-1 vote, the council passed Ordinance 2022-23, providing for the issuance of $6,780,000 aggregate principal amount General Obligation Warrants (Series 2022-A) and $6,855,000 aggregate principal amount General Obligation Warrants (Series 2022-B) by the city of Irondale.
The purpose of these bonds is to allow the city to purchase real estate, as well as refinance the city’s short-term debt from the purchase of the Zamora Temple.
Councilperson Cuellar was the sole member of council to vote against the ordinance.
“What I struggle with here is that the city has the funds in our reserve accounts,” she said. “It made sense to set aside in an escrow account $1.7 million over the next three years so that we could (pay off the short-term debt) in 2025. It would’ve been retired. What I struggle with in looking at this bond and the way that it’s been restructured … we would basically refund that (short-term debt) and then reissue more debt … What is troubling for me is that this is a 20-year, long term (bond). … This doesn’t make sense to me when we are in a state where we can pay a short-term bond … and save on all that interest.”
Mayor Stewart said when the city took out the short-term loan to purchase Zamora Temple, “the intent was never to take $5 million out of the reserve fund to be able to pay that off. The goal was always to have the short-term financing, so that (the city could consolidate it with) all of the purchases that we are getting ready to make.”
Stewart said that when the city first purchased the Zamora Temple property, the goal was to create a “recreational oasis” for the city of Irondale.
“If I sum this whole story up, we are now in control of over 266 acres in one of the prime areas in the city of Irondale and we are looking to develop a new city inside of the city,” he said. “So, I don’t want anybody to think that the land is just going to sit there, that we have no plans on what we’re going to do, because we never would have purchased it if we didn’t have an idea of what we were going to do.”
In other business, the council approved the following:
- Resolution 2022-R-173, authorizing the allocation of public funds to Camille Witt in the amount of $567 from the 21-22 FY Discretionary Fund of Councilor Cindy Cuellar to be used exclusively for landscaping materials, delivery and labor that will be done along the right-of-way entrance into Bramblewood
- Resolution 2022-R-180, authorizing the allocation of public funds to Shades Valley High School in the amount of $8,000 from the 21-22 FY budget to be used exclusively for Shades Valley girls and boys basketball teams
- Resolution 2022-R-182, authorizing the mayor to make assets of the city available in support of commercial filming and/or print projects within the city and to establish a policy for the amount of fees to be charged for the use of such assets
- Resolution 2022-R-183, authorizing the mayor or his designee to dispose of property listed in Exhibit A to Resolution 2022-R-116 through disposal as trash items by the Irondale Public Works Department
- Resolution 2022-R 184, authorizing the allocation of public funds in the amount of $500 from the 21-22 FY Discretionary Fund of Councilor John London to Shades Valley High School to be used exclusively for the Shades Valley High School cheerleaders
Additionally, the council passed a resolution to change its next regularly scheduled meeting from Tuesday, Oct. 4, to Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. That meeting will take place at Irondale City Hall, beginning at 6 p.m.
Contact Crystal McGough at email@example.com