The Birmingham City Council unanimously approved several measures on Tuesday morning to spend what Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said was a budget surplus of over $80 million.
One of the measures was a 5% "cost of living adjustment" for city employees, which Woodfin proposed earlier this month. The raise will cost the city over $13 million. Though the cost of living in Alabama is relatively low, the cost of living has been on the rise around the country due to rapid inflation.
However, this isn't the first pay raise for Birmingham city employees.
The city council already passed its largest operating budget ever for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 in July, amounting to a whopping $517 million. The budget included its own 5% pay raise and added benefits. The pay raise and added benefits totaled an additional $56 million for city employees.
"This allows us to say thank you and show our sincere appreciation towards our city employees," Woodfin said in a video statement following the meeting on Tuesday. "In addition to that, we're supporting our employees in various departments from our Fire Department, our Police Department, Public Works Department and Department of Transportation."
In addition to the cost of living adjustment, the council elected to approve upgrades to several recreation centers, libraries, parks, walking trails and historical sites around the city, including Rickwood Field and Legion Field.
The council also elected to spend $15 million on a "family fun center" at the Birmingham CrossPlex, which Woodfin announced in October, and $5 million on a new amphitheater in North Birmingham that will replace Pelham's Oak Mountain Ampitheatre.
In October, Woodfin said the "family fun center" would be 20,000 square feet, and discussion about the project began early in 2022. He said the funds come from refinancing commercial development bonds that the Birmingham City Council approved in 2020.
The Birmingham CrossPlex near Five Points West opened in 2011 and has since been used for indoor track and field competitions and other sporting events. The facility includes a 200-meter hydraulic running track and a 50-meter swimming and diving pool.
The new amphitheater will be located on the Carraway Hosptial site, which Corporate Realty purchased in 2020 after the city re-zoned the property for mixed-use and approved over $13 million in incentives, including a $4.1 million grant to help the company acquire the property.
The incentives also include $9.1 million, which would be based on tax revenues generated by the entire development.
The planned $340 million development, now referred to as "The Star at Uptown," is intended to include single-family and multifamily residential properties as well as hotel, retail, office and entertainment facilities.
The new theater would be owned by Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center (BJCC) and managed by Live Nation. It would be slightly smaller than the 10,500-seater in Pelham, inclusive of only 8,900 to 9,000 seats.
The Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex agreed to pay $5 million upfront for the new theater's construction. It also agreed to finance $30 million. Other localities and organizations have been asked to fork up $5 million each to get the deal moving forward, including the Jefferson County Commission and Live Nation.
The Birmingham City Council already voted to fork up almost $4 million in December to contribute to the Caraway Hospital demolition. The money came from American Rescue Plan Act funding and was an advanced payment of the $4.5 million in future tax abatement that has been promised. Demolition of the property already began over the summer.
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