Proposed truancy law and city budget dominate council meeting - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Proposed truancy law and city budget dominate council meeting

Mayor Bright presented the council with proposed 2009 budget Tuesday. Mayor Bright presented the council with proposed 2009 budget Tuesday.
Councilor Tracy Larkin's proposed truancy law would hold parents accountable. Councilor Tracy Larkin's proposed truancy law would hold parents accountable.

By Mark Bullock - Bio | Email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - There were two big issues addressing Montgomery city council members Tuesday -- keeping kids off the street and keeping the city government afloat.

"This is serious," said Mayor Bobby Bright of the city's financial situation.

Bright says says sales tax money, which makes up half the city's revenue, is down by seven million dollars. But the budget he presented to the council does not cut city services, does not raise taxes, and does not fire city employees.

"We won't be laying off anyone, thank goodness," Bright said. "But we will not be filling positions that we had in previous years."

The new $227 million budget for 2009 also does not include merit raises for employees.

The mayor says the city's reserve fund is what saved the city from further cuts. But he worries the fund may not be available in 2010.

"If this economic downtown continues through next year, then we'll have a serious, serious issue to address, up to and including cutting services and employees," he cautioned.

And that's not the only serious issue facing the city. Councilman Tracy Larkin surprised everyone when he submitted a proposed ordinance addressing truancy.

Larkin says skipping school ultimately leads to dropping out.

"And it is a certain contributor to the growing juvenile delinquency rates and ultimately, to instances of juvenile crime," he said.

Larkin's proposal would require police to take students on the street into custody and deliver them to a holding facility operated by the Montgomery Public School System. Then, their parents would fined or even imprisoned.

Some school officials were caught off guard by the proposal.

"From the school district's perspective, we're not looking from a punitive standpoint," said Assistant Principal Linda Robinson.

School officials asked for a chance to look over Larkin's proposal before it passed. The council agreed to delay its vote.

Larkin says 60,000 students skipped school in Montgomery last year. And he says his ordinance simply requires the city to enforce a state law that is already on the books.

Opponents, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, say punishing parents isn't the answer.

The council could take up the issue at its next meeting.

October first is the deadline to pass the city budget.

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