The Birmingham City Council has approved a plan to bring up to 132 furloughed city employees — mostly from the Birmingham Public Library and the city parks department — back to work.
The workers were furloughed in September due to budget cuts necessitated by COVID-19’s impact on city revenue.
The plan, described as a compromise between mayor and council, will be funded by $4.85 million borrowed from the city’s general fund reserve. That’s far less than the $7 million requested in Woodfin’s initial plan, which would also have restored two paid holidays for city employees and reversed some salary reductions to appointed staff.
Woodfin had maintained that the money would be offset by an expected injection of $9 million in Cares Act funding through the Jefferson County Commission, thanks to new federal guidelines making police and fire department payroll reimbursable under the act.
But councilors had expressed concern that borrowing $7 million would bring the city’s reserves below a “red line” and could hurt the city’s credit rating.
City policy calls for two months’ worth of operating expenses to be kept in reserves — which, according to the FY 2021 budget, would be about $69 million. After the county’s reimbursement, Woodfin’s proposal would have left the balance at $66 million; the new compromise, proposed by District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn and District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams, will leave it at a little under $69 million.