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.

One of the standouts in the presentation involved what Maddox deemed the new Police and Fire Pay Plan.

POLICE AND FIRE PAY PLAN

Maddox advocated bolstering public safety funding to retain more first responders, citing a significant turnover rate in Tuscaloosa's Police and Fire departments.

Data presented to the Council showed that Tuscaloosa Police Department loses one officer every two weeks. 50% of patrol officers on the force have less than two years experience, and it takes one year for an officer to be fully trained.

Similarly, at Tuscaloosa Fire Recuse, there have been 136 cases of heart disease reported in the last decade, which is higher than the national average. 44 cases of cancer has been reported in that same time. Applications have dropped by 67% from 2016 to 2021 and 25% of current TFR employees are eligible to retire today.

Maddox proposed what he called an "elite" and competitive payment plan for both departments, which impacts nearly 40% of the City's employees. This would be done through the creation of a Public Safety Fund. This new fund will cover the cost of:

  • Police and Fire Pay Plan
  • Potential conversion or upgrade of pension fund
  • Additional resources required to maintain effective police and fire departments

"It's going to put us in outstanding shape to be competitive now and in the future," Maddox said.

(City of Tuscaloosa, Facebook)

The fund would be fed by several revenue streams, including millions of dollars from Elevate Tuscaloosa tax proceeds.

"Public safety was one of the core principles of Elevate Tuscaloosa, which is why we feel comfortable in making this recommendation," he said.

(City of Tuscaloosa, Facebook)

Maddox also proposed a $1 fee for future ticketed events in the city. This fee would be added to each ticket for events with more than 1,000 attendees that also feature alcohol sales to offset the cost of insuring adequate fire and police protection of those events. He said shows at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater would see the biggest impact of this fee, although it would not exclude other events in town.

"This is a cost that the city will have to bear in perpetuity," Maddox said. "How do we make certain that we don't pass something that three years from now this council has to go back on because it can't afford. That would be a disservice to the police officers and firefighters."

A 3 percent housing tax would also be implemented for student-oriented housing mega-complexes with over 200 beds. This would not affect workforce housing and non-student rental housing. Starting in FY 2023, revenue from traffic light cameras would be added as a revenue stream.

(City of Tuscaloosa, Facebook)

Maddox said the initial projected cost of the pay plan would be $5.6 million,

He said the reason this model was selected was because despite a large upfront cost, the cost decreases exponentially over the first several years and then more gradually over the next ten years.

A full proposed pay scale using the Tuscaloosa Police Department as an example can be found below:

(City of Tuscaloosa, Facebook)

Maddox hopes to implement the new Police and Fire Pay Plan by April 1, 2022 if the council adopts his recommended budget.

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

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