The city of Tuscaloosa adopted its budgets for Fiscal Year 2023 Tuesday night, approving a hike to water and garbage rates, a cost of living raise for city employees and much more.

The council for weeks has been hearing proposals from mayor Walt Maddox on the city's three major budgets -- the general fund budget, the water and sewer fund budget and a special, separate budget for the Elevate Tuscaloosa tax plan.

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All told, the budgets plan for the acquisition and expenditure of a huge amount of money -- $175 million for the general fund, $64 million for water and sewer and another $35 million for Elevate.

The Thread may break down other parts of the budgets in future reports, but of immediate impact are raises to the city's water and garbage rates and a cost of living raise for all municipal employees.

GARBAGE RATES CLIMB $2 A MONTH

To start with garbage rates, customers in Tuscaloosa will still be paying only a fraction of what it costs the city to provide environmental services.

When Maddox's Elevate Tuscaloosa tax plan was adopted it 2019, it raised city sales tax by one cent per dollar, and to help that pill go down easier for constituents, Maddox and the council slashed what residential customers were charged for garbage service -- monthly bills for a single cart went from $19.75 to just $3.25 per month.

The budgets passed Tuesday raise that rate by $2 a month, so customers will now pay $5.25 total.

WATER AND SEWER BILLS INCREASE BY 10 PERCENT

The cost of water and sewer service from the city will also increase. That fund is set up as an enterprise fund, which means it must pay for itself with revenue generated by charging water and sewer customers. To that end, water and sewer rates will increase 10 percent, which will mean average residential bills will increase by $6.38 per month.

The mayor's budget noted customers in Tuscaloosa still pay far less than residents of Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and even Northport for water and sewer service.

COST-OF-LIVING ADJUSTMENT FOR CITY EMPLOYEES

The budgets passed Tuesday also include a 2.6 percent cost-of-living salary adjustment for all non-public safety municipal employees. Police and fire department employees are on their own pay plan, which saw its own significant raises last fiscal year.

In April, the council passed a COLA that raised salaries by 2.5 percent, but said then that their ultimate goal was to hike wages by 5.1 percent total. The additional 2.6 percent increase keeps that promise and is set to go into effect on October 1st when the new fiscal year begins.

Other parts of Maddox's proposed budget, including spending $500,000 in Elevate funding to boost the salaries of coaches in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system, were carved out of the votes taken Tuesday to be considered further in October.

For more updates from City Hall, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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