The Selma City Council unanimously approved adding $400,000 to the budget in a special called meeting on Thursday night so Mayor James Perkins Jr. can hire department leaders that he says are necessary to operate the city properly.
The funding is for some positions that were eliminated or underfunded in the previous administration or were part of the layoffs in 2018 by previous Mayor Darrio Melton, Perkins said.
The bulk of the additional funds are for an executive assistant in the mayor’s office, a human resources director, code enforcement director and assistant planning and development director.
The council was concerned about voting to spend this amount without receiving the request and information earlier than the day of a meeting, but voted to approve saying they hear the immediate need to take action and give the mayor the ability to make improvements as the public has asked.
The HR director is needed, Perkins said, because the city needs to hire more people in police, fire, public works and cemetery departments and needs a professional in human resources to make those hires. There are also 20 lawsuits against the city that are HR related and would need consulting from an HR director, he said.
When council members asked where the money would come from to cover the $400,000, treasurer Ronita Wade said funding is available for an HR director that was previously in the budget but not used, however at a lower salary than Perkins is proposing. She also said about $200,000 was spent in landfill costs to meet ADEM requirements this year that were one-time costs and will be available for use in the coming budget.
Perkins said he is working on a balanced budget to get approved by the council in the next two weeks and it will include these increases and additions.
“Within the next two weeks I’ve got to figure out how come up with balanced budget overall, so this is not a gunshot from the hip,” Perkins said. “These positions are critical. … This is not a roll of the dice. This is a reality check.”