By Joshua Gauntt | September 8, 2020 at 11:28 PM CDT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is looking at a $63 million cut to the city’s operation budget. That means furloughs and cuts to some city services.

Tuesday evening, city leaders heard from the parks and recreation and library boards about how cuts could impact services.
The Birmingham parks and recreation board presented some information to city’s committee of the whole, but council members asked them to come back with more firm numbers. As it stands now, around 50 full time employees are furloughed along with 11 part time employees, according to the board.

Park Board President Montal Morton says facilities are open but some programs are in jeopardy without staff to facilitate them. Morton says parks and recreation plays a vital role in the community. He says if you don’t have a viable rec, then that could lead to more crime in the community.

“Let’s not take it for granted. We are struggling. The city is struggling. The city has been struggling, but COVID-19 just pulled the Band-Aid off. I want you guys to take it and look at it from a personal standpoint. A viable community is only as strong as what you put in it,” Morton said.

There was also back and forth about some kind of compromise the parks and rec board supposedly made with Mayor Randall Woodfin. City council is asking for that information and asking the board to come back later this week with more solid information about its budget situation.

Committee of the whole members also heard from the library board. City council members had questions about furloughs within the library system due to the mayor’s budget cuts, but the board president says so far no one is furloughed.

When pressed for more information about that, Library Board President Eunice Johnson Rogers says they recently received a letter from Mayor Woodfin that gives the authority back to the library board to make decisions about furloughs. City Council is asking to see that letter saying they aren’t aware of that.

The library’s budget could be cut by over $2 million. Rogers says the biggest issues facing the library right now are staffing and materials.
“We are working diligently to keep open as many library branches and with flexibility as many employees as possible to maintain the quality of services that the citizens of Birmingham have come to expect and deserve,” Rogers said.
Rogers says the furlough discussion is currently being talked about in a library subcommittee. In the meantime, libraries continue to provide curbside service to residents.

We’re told the board is working on a reopening plan that should be announced soon.

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