Selma City Council President Warren “Billy” Young said Thursday the budget is a process. Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said the process isn’t moving fast enough.
In a work session via Zoom Thursday night, Perkins had every city department head tell the council their departments needed more staff and their employees needed to be paid competitive wages. Many departments said they needed more money for technology and equipment.
Parks and Recreation Director Terry Jackson told the council he quit. “My last day is April 4,” Jackson told the council. “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t take any more.”
Perkins told the council he did not know Jackson was going to quit on the Zoom call, but he said he understood his frustration. “They’re working with a totally inadequate budget that means nothing at all,” Perkins said. “This is a daily situation. These are peoples’ lives we’re dealing with.”
The city has essentially operated under a renewed version of a budget written in 2017. Perkins urged the council to quickly approve his proposed budget and then “work on longer term solutions.”
“It does not make sense to me or them (department heads) to work in this environment,” Perkins said. “Let’s fix the short-term issues and take department heads out from under this pressure. It would really be a blessing for all involved, including you, Council.”
Young said, “The budget is a process, and that process is critical.” He said he found the first budget meeting “productive,” and he “looked forward to future budget meetings.” A second budget meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. via Zoom.
“We will work the process as designed,” Warren said. “Selma did not elect us to be at odds. They want government to work together. So far, we have evidenced that. I hope and pray that good things come when good people work together.”
Councilwoman Jannie Thomas backed up Warren. The council “was chosen to do a job,” Thomas said. “We can’t just be given a budget and not have time to look at it. We’re not trying to hurt anyone. We’re trying to make the best decision.”
Perkins responded that the council has only had one two-hour budget meeting since he gave them a draft of the budget on Jan. 12. “I’m not trying to cram this down your throat,” Perkins said. “The feeling is we (city managers) have been pretty patient. I hope the council realizes every day means something. We do not intend to be at odds. We’re doing what we can to inform the council.”
Perkins said, “I’m just saying let’s make this a priority and get this done together.”
Councilwoman Leisa James said she was ready to pass the budget “tonight.”
“We’ve heard from every department head,” she said. “Why can’t we do this?” Councilman Michael Johnson said he agreed with James.
During the meeting, every department listed similar issues relating to understaffing and poor salaries that they said resulted in high turnover. Projects and inspections are delayed or undone, and revenue isn’t collected, according to the department heads.
The Planning and Development office noted that there was not enough money in their budget to cover the city’s portion of grant funding. Perkins said the budget calls for moving three city fire inspectors to battalion chiefs and turning fire inspections over to the Alabama state fire marshal who serves Dallas, Wilcox and Marengo counties.
The city council will meet Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m.