Opp faces $600K+ shortfall

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 19, 2014

The city of Opp is facing a $600,000-plus budget shortfall, and must ask the Opp Utilities Board for additional funding and could also ask the Opp City School system for money for use of its facilities.

At a budget workshop on Thursday, the city council worked through line items to cut any expenses that were not deemed necessary in order to try to balance the budget.

Mayor John Bartholomew told the council one way to balance the budget would be to ask the utilities board for an additional appropriation, while City Clerk Connie Smith told the council it could always increase sales tax by 1 cent.

Bartholomew was against the increase in sales tax, saying that the sales taxes were where they need to be for residents.

The city took a $38,000 hit in sales taxes with JM Jackson moving its dealership from Opp to Sanford, Bartholomew said.

Additionally, the city will be obligated to pay $108,000 for its part on a bond issue at the airport, and the city has obligated itself to about $100,000 in equipment payments.

The county commission, as well as Opp and Andalusia, were notified earlier this year that a company’s decision not to renew the lease of the industrial hangar at South Alabama Regional Airport means the three governments will need to contribute toward the payment on the building, beginning in January. The county’s portion is $22,500 per month, or more than $200,000 for the nine months of the 2015 fiscal year it will contribute.

Bartholomew told the council he had several contracts sitting on his desk for franchises and said he believes the city will be in much better standing by next year.

City council members also expressed that they felt the Opp City Schools should pay “something” for the use of city-owned properties such as Channel-Lee Stadium.

Bartholomew cited numerous occasions that school officials had left lights on at the stadium, a bill the city currently picks up.

Councilman Bobby Ray Owens cited that OCS recently passed a more-than $12 million budget, while the city was struggling to pass a $5.4 million budget of its own.

Council members agreed to bring in OCS Superintendent Michael Smithart.

The proposed budget includes little capital outlay, and the outlay that is budgeted has been deemed necessary.

Among the capital outlay included:

• $40,000 for a new patrol car to replace a wrecked one;

• $24,000 for a truck for the police department to transport workers;

• $48,000 for a new Tahoe for the fire department and $8,000 for new air cylinders. Bartholomew said the fire department has not purchased a new vehicle in 25 years, and that the air cylinders must be purchased by law; and,

• $20,000 for a new lawnmower for the parks and recreation department.

Additionally, the city discussed increasing animal fines for residents whose pets are picked up by animal control. Currently, the city appropriates $10,000 for the care and euthanization of animals.

“I just don’t understand us having to pay for someone else’s ignorance,” Owens said.

The city also cut out a recently approved garbage truck from its budget.

The council will meet again on Monday at 2 p.m. to discuss the budget further.