Tag Archives: budget

UPDATED: Called City Council Committee Meeting Leads to Short Moratorium on Capital Projects

UPDATE, 8:30 p.m., 9/11/2015: According to a press release received earlier this evening, the Birmingham City Council moved to rescind the moratorium on spending on capital projects during their next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, September 15. This was after a 3 1/2 hour committee of the whole meeting, described in the release as being “open and often candid.”

The original post follows below:


city-flag-400x180Late Thursday afternoon the Birmingham City Council officially announced a special called meeting of its Committee of the Whole for Friday at 2 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting takes place just three days after the city’s legislative body voted to put in place a 30-day moratorium on funding for all capital projects underway in the city (as reported by AL.com), with a few notable exceptions — including renovations at Legion Field and the new intermodal transit facility currently under construction. A review of the committee meeting’s preliminary agenda for the meeting shows the only item under New Business as a “capital projects update.”

A press release sent out this afternoon in advance of the presentation to the council by the mayor’s office included the following quote from council president Johnathan Austin:

“As City Councilors we must be continually updated on all projects that utilize public funds to ensure that we are making the best decisions for our constituents. While we are excited about new growth opportunities that certain capital projects may present it is prudent that we are cautious about approving funding for items that we have minimal knowledge about.”

A report filed by WBRC’s Vanessa Araiza on Wednesday pointed to cost overruns related to Regions Field as a major reason for the delay. The council voted on Tuesday to approve paying the remaining expenses to Robins & Morton and A.G. Gaston Construction over a seven-year period. Members of the City Council also alluded to receiving some monthly reports covering progress while not receiving others, despite claims from the mayor’s office to the contrary. The reports are not accessible currently via the city’s official website, though the monthly report for the city’s street and storm sewer improvements program for the period ending December 31, 2014 is available online in part due to a report filed for ABC 33/40 in late January.

The current fiscal year’s capital budget is available on the city’s website via the budget office.

Digging into the UAB athletics announcement: A look at C-USA and SEC athletic budgets, subsidies and state appropriations

NCAA-logo-aloneThis weekend the group of NCAA Division I FBS conferences known as the “Power 5” and the “autonomy schools” approved long-talked about changes to their Division I governance laws. Reports from this year’s convention via USA Today showed that while they passed, it was not without disagreement.

The “cost of living” amendment passed 79-1 with the lone vote against raising concerns about the residual effects of such a change. It allows for schools to cover incidental costs associated with college in addition to tuition, room, and board. A proposal to allow for student-athletes to be able to receive guaranteed four-year scholarships barely passed, with representatives from the SEC and Big 12 among those arguing against the concept. These votes are significant for UAB as a member of Conference USA given comments made by league commissioner, Britton Banowsky, before the beginning of the academic year suggesting members schools were prepared to pay athletes the full cost of attendance. A look at publicly available numbers tell a different story.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a report in March 2014 titled “An Era of Neglect.” The accompanying database was the one referenced by Yellowhammer News in the post published in September and cited previously in this series. Below is a table showing data compiled from both that database and one maintained by USA Today since 2005 showing revenues, expenses, and subsidies for public colleges and universities participating in collegiate sports. Ours extracts data from the USA Today database while adding two additional pieces — the percentage of the overall budget for the institution compromised of state appropriations and the change of percentage between where it was in 1987 and in 2012 — from the Chronicle for Higher Education’s database. A decision was made to focus on member schools in both Southeastern Conference and Conference USA to provide context and perspective. Adding the numbers in the last two columns together (and remembering to add the number in the last column instead of subtracting, so, for example, taking 29.9 and 26.1 — and NOT -26.1 — for Florida) will give you will allow you to determine the institution’s total state appropriation in 1987 (56% for our example).

SchoolTotal RevenueTotal ExpensesTotal Subsidy% Subsidy% overall budget from state, 2012% +/- 1987-2012
Ole Miss$73,390,050$71,315,807$3,831,5985.2227.7-19.7
Miss. State$62,764,025$57,362,224$3,000,0004.7836.7-12.0
Texas A&M$93,957,906$85,114,588$590,9730.6332.5-16.9
Florida Atlantic$24,538,411$21,967,412$16,590,46867.6149.4-23.2
LA Tech$18,570,493$18,444,386$9,214,68249.6237.6-14.2
Middle TN St.$27,667,552$28,716,516$19,613,16170.8925.6-41.6
UNC Charlotte$26,681,829$26,122,465$18,667,99469.9750.3-17.0
North Texas$28,800,436$28,926,470$17,628,42661.2134.2-29.1
Old Dominion$36,929,483$35,561,455$27,089,35873.3543.8-16.5
Southern Miss$22,776,416$22,399,056$9,802,77443.0435.9-15.0

It’s worth noting that UAB saw the smallest reduction in state appropriations among the schools with records available (both Vanderbilt and Rice are private institutions). They received the third lowest state appropriation percentage-wise in C-USA while providing more than 64% in subsidies to athletics (the sixth highest amount by percentage in the conference). There are also four member schools in C-USA in 2013 with expenses exceeding revenue (Marshall, Middle Tennessee St., UT-San Antonio, and Western Kentucky). The school with the second highest subsidy by percentage in C-USA (Old Dominion, 73.35%) is one of three in Virginia that may be specifically affected by proposed legislation mandating that its 15 state-funded institutions derive no more than 70% of their athletic budgets from student fees and other subsidies from their general budgets. Schools participating in the Football bowl Subdivision would not be able to spend more than 20%, meaning they could potentially be forced to withdraw from C-USA (as reported late last week on PilotOnline.com). It would also prevent student fees and tuition from being raised solely for the purpose of funding athletics.

It makes sense to revisit NCAA president Mark Emmert’s comments after the announcement of the discontinuation of three athletic teams at UAB — via video — and in light of the collected data.

CORRECTION – 5:15 p.m., 1/19/2015: An earlier version of this post stated that UAB had the eighth highest athletic subsidy in Conference USA. It has the sixth highest.

Ruffner Treetop Visitors Center earns LEED Gold

New Ruffner LogoRuffner Mountain Nature Preserve recently learned that their Treetop Visitors Center had earned LEED Gold status. The $4 million building is one of only five new construction projects in the state to ever receive that designation as part of the environmentally friendly certification system. A glass plaque is being sent to the facility in recognition of the achievement. The new center opened last spring.

The organization is in the process of changing its name from center to preserve to reflect their focus on conservation. They’ve also begun to use a new logo (that’s it off to the left if you’re reading this via the site) and have plans to roll out a redesigned website in the coming months.

Incidentally, the current fiscal 2012 city budget does not provide any funding for Ruffner Mountain. The organization is under contract with the city to manage 500 of the 1,011 acres of land contained within.

On the agenda: A new use for our old home

Pale Eddie's comes to 2nd Ave. N. acnatta/FlickrWe weren’t there for that long (we haven’t been gone for that long either), but there is already a new use planned for the space once known as Shift Workspace.

2308 2nd Avenue North is currently on this morning’s Birmingham City Council agenda as Item 5 (it’s on consent); the space will see new life later on this year as Pale Eddie’s Pour House.

It was one of three businesses that recently went before the Central City Neighborhood association to ask for support of their liquor license applications. Jeremy Erdreich attended the meeting and describes how each of the applicants will affect the commercial scene on 2nd Avenue North on BhamarchitectUrban Standard‘s application signals their intention to serve dinner while the other application signals new life for the Gypsy Market. Tomorrow’s meeting will have five such applications with only one recommendation for denial among them.

The former Positive Maturity facility in downtown Ensley will also be seeing a new use according to Item 21. Ironically, it is one of the city owned properties that would be considered for sale or auction according to Councilor Smitherman’s submitted Item 28. She has also submitted Item 29, one that would ask the mayor to survey city employees to ask for their suggestions for cutting costs. Their suggestions would be due by May 31.

The fun starts when the live stream begins at 9 a.m.

Photo: Pale Eddie’s comes to 2nd Ave. N. acnatta/Flickr

On the agenda: Vulcan, jazz and transit

New Birmingham, Alabama logoThis morning’s Birmingham City Council agenda is the longest in some time, consisting of some 44 pages.

Item 21 asks the Council to approve an amendment to their contract with the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (better known to most of us as MAX). It would allow the council to provide up to an additional $3 million to the cash-strapped agency, increasing their allocation to more than $8 million. The routes and hours are to be established by the City Council Transportation Committee.

Item 28 gives us a first glance at the Jazz in the Park Concerts sponsored by Magic City Smooth Jazz. The free concerts would be held every Sunday from July 4-25, 2010 at several locations throughout the city. The item includes the city agreeing to provide up to $10,000 towards the cost of the series.

Item 33 allows The Big Guy atop Red Mountain to have some necessary repair work done to his pedestal. Vulcan Painters of Bessemer submitted the low (and only) bid of $27,672 and acceptance of the item allows repair work to the pedestal to proceed.

The meetings are streamed live via the city’s website and archived.

On the agenda: One laptop per councilor

In case you missed it yesterday morning, Mayor Langford presented each of the members of the Birmingham City Council with an HP Mini notebook, comple with capability to connect to the Internet using WiFi and an AirCard courtesy of Verizon Wireless. They also received an 8 GB jump drive containing several city reports, including the budget that they are currently working on and a bag to carry it all in; Birmingham Weekly tweeted a description of the embroidered message. A series of classes will be offered for those councilors and city employees that are interested.

The Birmingham News pointed out the total cost of the expenditure in today’s paper, as well as the status of the budget that seems to have encouraged their distribution.

For the Record goes on, until 2.3

Alabama’s only statewide news program, For the Record, is scheduled to have its current format go dark after 25 years on the air come February 3. The Huntsville Times reported the story in this morning’s paper, with FTR moderator Tim Lennox offering this note on his blog earlier today.

It is one of several announcements expected later today from APTV’s Birmingham offices and according to the Times’ article, it may not be the only one due to proration for our state’s television station.