Mar 21 2006

Hartselle's reserve fund balance tops $6 million

The Decatur Daily

By Deangelo McDaniel

For a moment, Mayor Dwight Tankersley stared at the sheet City Clerk Rita Lee placed on his desk.

"Is this right?" he asked.

"Yes," Lee replied.

For the first time in the city's almost 135-year history, Hartselle's reserve account topped the $6 million mark.

The sheet Lee gave the mayor was an update of the city's bank accounts through Feb. 28. It showed the reserve balance at $6.02 million.

"I was pleasantly surprised, and I didn't know how it had grown that much," Tankersley said.

The account got to more than $6 million primarily because of increased sales tax and business license collections, Lee said.

Since October 2004, when the current administration took office, the city has had some months when tax collections increased by more than 10 percent.

In some months, however, Hartselle generally had some special circumstances that led to the increase.

In January, for example, the city had an 11.9 percent increase because of a one-time audit payment from a business.

Tankersley said he doesn't care how the money gets there. The General Fund balance was $4.7 million when the current administration took office almost 17 months ago.

Hartselle's financial growth comes at a time when the council has borrowed $1.1 million to start the garbage collection business and received more than $2 million in federal grants.

The first grant was $1 million for the Alabama 36 widening project. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, then announced a $500,000 grant for the industrial park. This year, the council received a $142,000 grant to purchase land near the airport and $480,000 to replace the aging canopies in downtown Hartselle.

During that same period, city leaders spent $86,000 to purchase property for soccer field expansion, $142,000 to widen Garner Road and $104,000 to repair or resurface 12 streets.

Council President Kenny Thompson is happy to see the General Fund increase, but he wants to use more of the money on street paving.

"I hear it all the time," Thompson said last month. "Streets, streets, streets. They want to know when we're going to do something."

Tankersley said Director of Public Works Byron Turney is preparing a priority paving list for the council.