Double-digit increases in sales tax and other revenues are allowing Cullman city leaders to deliver on most municipal department heads’ annual wish list, as the Cullman City Council signed off on a sizably increased yearly budget at its regular meeting Monday.
For the approaching 2021-2022 fiscal year, which begins Nov. 1, the city will see its General Fund budget increase to $48.3 million — a figure based on actual revenues collected during the fiscal year that ends on Oct. 31. That’s a massive leap beyond the current budget year’s General Fund figure of $38.4 million.
Council members pointed out one of the new budget’s key spending priorities that distinguishes it from those passed in recent years: a bevy of pay raises for both new and current employees.
All city employees will receive a 4 percent cost-of-living pay increase beginning with their first pay period of the new fiscal year. The council also approved increases for new employees that bump starting pay by approximately $2 per hour for entry-level positions, and go up from there for stepped positions that require additional training, skill, and years of prior experience.
In addition, current employees in many positions, including police, fire, and utilities, will see increases in their pay that reflect a matrix of qualifications unique to each employee’s years of service, training, and other merit-based metrics. Those increases, the council noted, are aimed at extending to current employees the same (or similar) increases in starting pay that future city employees, hired under the new budget, are set to receive.
Current full-time city employees also will receive an $800 one-time supplement in November. The council also increased the number of paid employee holidays from nine to ten, and incorporated a number of city-compensated upgrades to eligible employees’ insurance coverage.
Mayor Woody Jacobs said this year’s budget reflected an unprecedented measure of cooperation among department heads, as well as a continuous line of open communication and advice from city clerk Wes Moore. He also said the pay increases are needed in a changing economic environment.
“If we don’t stay competitive, we lose our employees,” said Jacobs. “You’ve got to pay your people. ‘Teamwork’ is the right word for how this budget came together, and everybody worked together this year in what is probably the biggest team effort we’ve ever had to pass a budget.”
“Good, solid employees are hard to find, and keeping what you have and making sure you are competitive is important,” added council member Clint Hollingsworth. “It’s important to retain our good employees, and to make things attractive for new folks as well. This budget, more than any other I can think of, has put more stress on accomplishing that."