Residents address Tuskegee budget crisis

Posted by: Cody Holyoke - bio | email

TUSKEGEE, AL (WSFA) - On the heels of the upcoming fiscal year, Mayor Omar Neal sat in front of residents, spelling out just how bad the situation is.

"This is the best of times and the worst of times-- all at the same time," he said.

The city is struggling with debt and owes nearly $700,000 to a local bank--not to mention nearly $1.8 million to the IRS.

"The trend is still certainly telling us things are not going to improve anytime soon," said Al Davis, Tuskegee's city manager.

Now, city leaders are looking for ways to pay off the debt and keep the city fiscally afloat.

They've already cut some of the workforce and have plans for another cost cutting initiative.

"There are certainly some signs of hope that as the national economy begins to move a little out of the recession, we'll see some of the benefits of it here," Davis said to the crowd.

Residents, hoping they would hear solutions, voiced some ideas which include condensing parts of city and county government.

"Why haven't we come to the meeting of the minds to realize all dispatchers speak the same language?" asked Leon Frazier of Tuskegee, discussing emergency personnel.

"Currently, we are supporting two governments. One for the county and one for the city," said Beatrice Morgan of Tuskegee.

They also suggested changing implementing taxes for bingo establishments, such as Victoryland, which they say would bring in revenue for Macon county

"For every wheelbarrow load [Milton McGregor] rolls off, you've got a black man standing up getting a bucketful out of it and running over to his house or his office," Frazier exclaimed.

Either way, Mayor Neal says it all comes down to being self-sufficient.  It's something Tuskegee is struggling to do.

"If we go out to recruit businesses, we have to convince them that we have a citizenry that truly understands the difference between having money and having an economy," Neal said.

The budget deadline has already been pushed past the start of the fiscal year.

The city manager told residents he hopes to have another round of cost cutting measures ready to go before the city council next week.

©2009 WSFA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.