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Kyle seeks cost-saving measures
Sen. Arthur Orr voices his support for mayor's proposals
By Tiffeny Owens
The Decatur Daily

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle is proposing a host of administrative measures aimed at saving municipalities money, and has found a supporter in state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

Two Kyle-proposed initiatives would allow cities to require employees to enroll in direct deposit of paychecks and spread annual business license renewals due in January across 12 months, similar to renewing license plates monthly. Both would have to be authorized by the Legislature.

“I don’t like local bills just in principle,” Kyle said. “What’s good for Decatur should be what’s good for all cities across Alabama. I would like to see anything the Legislature passes be applied to all municipalities so they can benefit, too.”

Orr plans to sponsor bills regarding mandatory direct deposits and spreading out business license renewals.

Two other measures Kyle has proposed would affect government retirees. One would give municipalities the option to spread the costs to pay out accumulated unused sick leave and vacation time for retiring employees over a few years. An employee who has built up paid leave is entitled to those funds prior to drawing retirement benefits. Kyle said the payout can be a huge hit to a small department’s finances if it’s not budgeted in advance.

Another measure would allow cities to give retired employees pay raises incrementally over a few years so their budgets could more easily absorb the extra personnel costs.

The Legislature passed a 7 percent pay raise for retirees six years ago, but Decatur could not afford it to implement it, Personnel Director Ken Smith said. Decatur has 283 retirees receiving benefits, Smith said.

“Right now, Decatur doesn’t have the authority to give a portion of a raise to retirees. It’s an all-or-nothing situation,” Smith said.

Orr said he’s exploring the best avenue to implement the changes concerning retiree payments, either through legislation or by amending Retirement Systems of Alabama’s policy. Orr said a RSA legal advisor told him it would require legislation, but Orr doesn’t think there is enough support to get anything passed.

Orr, who chairs the Senate’s general fund budget committee, has sought ways to streamline government operations and privatize agencies to save money.

“I commend Mayor Kyle for identifying these issues that could create cost savings, not just for Decatur, but for other cities, and I appreciate his thinking about ways to save taxpayer funds wherever possible,” Orr said.

Kyle, a former accountant, said he’s optimistic about the trajectory of Decatur’s revenue, but is concerned those funds will not go as far as they used to.

“We may be approaching 2008 budget levels, which was a banner year for Decatur, but we still have to try to manage our funds as best we can going forward,” Kyle said.

Tiffeny Owens can be reached at 256-340-2440 or towens@decatur

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