Valley approves $12M budget

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023

VALLEY — The Valley City Council at its Monday meeting unanimously approved a $12 million budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1.

“It’s a good budget,” said Mayor Leonard Riley. “We have been having good budgets for the past seven or eight years. Most of the work for it was done by the department heads. They pretty much got everything they asked for.”

The new budget will include some leased vehicles for the Valley Police Department. Three-year leases for six new vehicles will run a little more than $125,000. VPD will be getting Dodge Charger Pursuit vehicles to replace Ford Explorers.

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Along with the police department, public works will be a big beneficiary in getting new equipment. Public works will be getting a new limb truck, a front-end loader and an asphalt patcher that costs around $220,000.

The approved budget includes some needed work at the Valley Community Center pool and on the exterior of the central building at Valley Sportsplex. The pool area hasn’t been repainted since the Community Center opened in 2003. The exterior stucco on the Sportsplex building will be repaired and the building repainted. This will cost a little under $50,000. Some hot water heaters will be replaced at the Community Center as well.

The new budget will have over $1 million in capital expenditures.

At the Aug. 10 work session, Valley Parks & Recreation Director Laurie Blount told the mayor and council that the gym floor inside the Community Center needs some work but it can wait until next year.

Riley said the big problem now isn’t revenue — that’s coming in at a good clip. The problem is that costs are so high.

The city is looking at an estimated $11.6 million in expenditures in 2023-24. That will be up from $10.5 million that’s being spent this year.

“This is the first time since I have been mayor that I didn’t have to make adjustments from what the department heads asked for,” Riley said at the work session.

Riley said he is proud he has kept a campaign promise he made when he first ran for mayor in 2012.

“I made a commitment to employees 10 years ago that we’d never lay anyone off, and we haven’t,” he said.

City employees will be getting a three percent cost of living adjustment (COLA), and the city will be picking up the tab a three-and-a-half percent increase in health insurance and an increase in liability insurance.

The new equipment being leased or purchased will be ordered in early October.

“We will be doing that in the hope we can get it back early for our departments,” Riley said.

In other business at the Monday meeting, the council approved an annual contract with the East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire Protection District to provide ambulance service for Valley. It will cost the city some $300,000, which is about what it cost last year. Until a few years ago, Valley was one of relatively few Alabama cities that had an ambulance service but not a fire department. Most cities tend to pair those two services. East Alabama has had a fire department since its inception in the 1970s. Like most cities, they now have both a fire department and an ambulance service.

The council approved two consent agenda items. These included an annual contract with the East Alabama Planning & Development Commission’s Area Agency on the Aging to administer a senior center in Valley and to approve the annual Severe Weather Sales Tax holiday, which will be taking place the weekend of Feb. 23-25, 2024.

Similar to the Back to School Sales Tax holiday, this will give consumers a break in the purchase of items needed in the event of severe weather. The state suspends the collection of sales taxes on those items that one weekend. City and county governments have the option to participate.

Valley resident Sherry Lee asked to be on the agenda to talk to the council about the need for road improvements in the city.

“We have a problem with potholes on Highway 29,” she said. “It seems that when one is filled in it’s right back to what it was in no time. Some of the streets behind Valley High are in bad shape. There’s one place where you have to drive off the road to get around a bad place.”

Riley told her that the state, not the city, is responsible for the upkeep of Highway 29.

“We can’t do any work on it,” he said.

Riley told Lee that the city had spent over $6 million in road improvements in recent years and had plans to spend some $3 million more in the next few years.

Valley Parks & Recreation Director Laurie Blount told the council that Valley Community Center will be hosting this year’s State Masters Games the week of Oct. 16-19. It will be the first time the State Games have taken place since 2019, the year before Covid.

“We are looking forward to hosting the State Games,” Blount said. “We know everyone will have a good time.”

The city’s annual Fall Festival will be taking place on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

“We are asking local businesses, civic clubs and churches to help us by hosting booths giving away candy,” Blount said.

Code Enforcement Officer Reid Riley said that the annual garbage collection accounts will renew with the start of the new fiscal year. Those who are disabled or who have Social Security as their sole source of income are exempt from paying a city garbage bill, but they need to apply for free service at city hall.

Public Works Director Patrick Bolt told the council that his department had started cleanup work at the Riverdale Mill site.

“Hopefully we will be doing some road paving soon,” he said. “We have some grading work to do at Fairfax Elementary School, where some modular units are going in. We are finishing up some work we have been doing on 30th Street. We have had some of our bigger equipment there.”