Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox spent hours Friday presenting his budget proposals for the 2022 fiscal year to the City Council, plans he called the most extensive since he was first elected mayor in 2005.

When introducing the budget, Maddox highlighted the extensive investments he recommends for bolstering the Tuscaloosa Police Department and Fire Rescue service, as well as the new investments made possible through his Elevate Tuscaloosa tax plan.

"The 'why' behind the 'what' you will see is about making Tuscaloosa safer and stronger," Maddox said.

Maddox drew attention to a few key numbers in his proposed budget before the official presentation began:

  • $6,379,240 invested in education - including hiring school resource officers and crossing guards and enhancing pre-k and dual enrollment
  • $73,973,495 invested public safety - including operations, municipal court improvements, construction of a new Fire Station No. 6, getting new vehicles and equipment and implementing the new Police and Fire Pay Plan
  • $58,577,469 invested in infrastructure 
    • Includes $6,054,317 in paving recommendations
  • $42,880,666 invested in a 10-year plan for water and sewer improvements - if adopted, the city will spend the next 12-18 months to invest that in $42 million in strengthening water and sewer systems in the city
  • $15,241,857 invested into parks and recreation - over $150 per citizen, which exceeds national average

This is one of several stories recapping different aspects of the day's presentations. Come back to The Tuscaloosa Thread for additional coverage as it's published.

Below is a comprehensive breakdown of future developments made possible through Elevate Tuscaloosa and the American Rescue Plan.

AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN

The City was awarded $20,529,224 in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan to help battle the economic effects of COVID-19. Funds could be used for responding to the public health emergency, providing hazard pay to eligible workers, providing government services or making necessary investments in infrastructure.

Maddox proposed an overview of how Tuscaloosa should spend the $20 million in four major areas:

  • Offsetting Elevate Revenue Losses: $865,528
  • Offsetting General Fund Revenue Losses: $9,827,620
  • Water & Sewer Infrastructure Investments: $6,980,076
  • Heroes Bonus: $2,856,000

Maddox then outlined specific ways the money could be spent in each area.

Elevate Tuscaloosa Projects:

  • Jaycee Park Pavilion Refurbishment: $60,000
  • Jaycee Park Restroom Restoration $306,000
  • Kaulton Park Improvements: $250,000
  • Ol' Colony Golf Course Green Restoration: $100,000
  • Springbrook Park Paved Walking Track: $32,400
  • Total: $748,400
  • Remaining: $117,128
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General Fund:

  • Citywide Road Resurfacing: $1,125,000
  • Environmental Services - Parking Lot: $500,000
  • Fire Station Improvements: $305,000
  • Information Technology Servers: $97,000
  • IPS Vehicles & Equipment: $2,104,000
  • Neighborhood Drainage Projects: $250,000
  • Park Recreation and Capital Improvements: $673,149
  • TPD Vehicles & Equipment: $2,559,000
  • Total: $7,613,159
  • Remaining: $2,214,461

Water & Sewer Infrastructure:

  • Campus Water Tower: $4,000,000
  • Lift Station #10 & #11: $2,000,000
  • Contingency: $500,000
  • Total: $6,850,000
  • Remaining: $480,076

Hero Bonus:

  • Level 1 Bonus: $1,250
    • Employees: 566
    • Cost: $707,500
  • Level 2 Bonus: $2,500
    • Employees 674
    • Cost: $1,348,000
  • Vaccination Bonus: $250
    • Employees: 1,300
    • Cost: $325,000
  • Salary Cost: $2,380,500
  • Benefits Cost (20%): $476,100
  • Total: $2,856,600

ELEVATE TUSCALOOSA

As a part of his FY 2022 budget proposal, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox took time to look back on Elevate Tuscaloosa's major successes in the past year, as well as detail the future projects that will benefit from the fund.

"Elevate has really been one of the most citizen-driven processes that I've been a part of as a member of the City of Tuscaloosa," Maddox said. "We want to continue the type of citizens' input from a broad range of stakeholders who do play a role in continuing to shape our future in Tuscaloosa."

Maddox didn't shy away from the negative impact COVID-19 had on Elevate's ability to generate revenue, but highlighted how partnerships and grants more than offset those losses by contributing $26,428,000 to various projects in the city. Two of the most significant grants received included a $15 million BUILD Grant that will fund development of the Western Riverwalk and a $8.7 million FAA grant for improvements to the Tuscaloosa National Airport.

(City of Tuscaloosa, Facebook)

Maddox said Elevate Tuscaloosa was designed with five core focuses including education, Public Safety, Recreation, Arts and Connectivity.

Through Elevate, 326 Tuscaloosa City Schools students participated in dual enrollment during the 2020-21 school year, and another 248 enrolled for the summer and fall of the 2021-22 year. According to Maddox, 80% of students in dual enrollment either complete two or four-year degrees.

1,968 kindergarten through third grade students enrolled in summer learning programs, and currently 526 students have taken advantage of pre-k programs for fall 2021.

Maddox highlighted several projects that were made possible through Elevate funding:

  • The renaming of 28th Avenue to Nick's Kid's Avenue, another step closer to the construction of the Saban Center
  • Northern Riverwalk groundbreaking in February, with construction completion expected this fall
  • The grand opening of the new all-inclusive playground at Sokol Park
  • Major upgrades to the McDonald Hughes Center including a new indoor playground and installation of resilient and sound-absorbing gym flooring
  • The Tuscaloosa National Airport runway improvements including repaving, placing new asphalt and adding runway end identifier lights

Lastly, Maddox acknowledged the goodwill that Restart Tuscaloosa provided at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through that program, the city provided $1.3 million to more than 250 small businesses and invested in improvements to 66 local roads, sidewalks and drainage projects.

For the FY 2022 year, Maddox estimated a total revenue gross of $28.8 million from sales tax and other revenue streams netting $23.5 million.

(City of Tuscaloosa, Facebook)

Below is a list of all proposed projects to be funded through elevate in the next fiscal year:

  • Skilled Trades Academy - $50,000 annually through FY 30 for workforce development
  • Public Safety - $2 million for Fire Station #6 engineering phase through Restart Tuscaloosa, $2,629,500 for Public Safety Pay Plan. FY22 increases Elevate's contribution from 7.5 percent to 15 percent, total 20% in FY 2023
  • River District Park - $2.7 million added in FY22, with ongoing conversations about public-private partnership opportunities
  • New Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA - $500,000 for professional services in FY22, $9.5 million for construction. Currently, there are 5 locations being considered for a potential site.
  • Tuscaloosa Tennis Center - $500,000 for professional services in FY22, $9.5 million for construction. Will go towards four additional indoor courts and 20 additional hard and clay courts. Maddox said that improvement on a facility like this would put Tuscaloosa in the top tier of drawing tennis events in the southeast.
  • McAbee Center - $500,000 for professional services in FY22, $9.5 million for construction in FY23. Maddox said that the City is ready to turn the McAbee Center into one of Alabama's premier senior centers
  • Snow Hinton Park Phase 1 - $500,000 in design for FY22, estimated $5 million for construction in FY23. Will focus on improving lighting and addressing security issues
  • Bowers Park - $240,000 from Tuscaloosa County (pending approval) for pool renovations. Through Elevate $511,000 will go to paving and another $95,000 will go to tennis court demolition.
    • The City of Tuscaloosa is now splitting the cost of these partnership parks like Bowers and Sokol with the County 60.4% to 39.6%. In 2014, Tuscaloosa paid 70% to the county's 30%.
  • McDonald Hughes Center Phase 2 - $500,000 in professional services in FY23, estimated $7.5 mil for construction added in FY 24
  • Sokol Park - $1,313,000 from Tuscaloosa County (pending approval) for ballfields lights, $450,000 from Alabama Trust Fund for parking lots. Elevate will provide an additional $1.2 million for paving, $110k for Watermelon Road.
  • Civil Rights Foundation/Trail - $500,000 for professional services and restoration from Restart Tuscaloosa in FY22. Looking for public and private investment.
  • Gateway Discover Center - $250k for professional services as recommended by Project Unity in FY22
  • Saban Center - Design and programming to begin in FY22. Fundraising begins FY23. Construction Begins FY22
  • Western Riverwalk - BUILD Grant provides $15 million, ADECA Grant provides $40,000. Elevate contributes another $5.5 million. Construction is estimated to begin in 2022.
    • Phase 1: Pedestrian Bridge
    • Phase 2: Barge mooring relocation
    • Phase 3: Riverwalk trail, lock wall and park at Oliver Lock and Dam

For more information, read the City's full budget handout here.

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