Mayor Ronnie and I had both been at the Flag Day ceremony held at Athens State University on June 14, and as always, we wished that more people had been there. The presentations by Representative Crawford, Dr. Durm, and Dr. Wright were excellent, and as Danny Crawford spoke about the symbolism of the 13 folds of the American flag, we both learned something new. I was reminded in a whole new way that the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation is historically inarguable, and all you have to do to control a population is to disconnect them from their history.
We moved on to the topic of the electrical budget, and once again, I learned something new. According to Alabama State law, all of the electricity produced in Limestone County comes under the utility umbrella of the City of Athens. So, it becomes the City’s responsibility to put together an annual budget for electricity for both the City and the County, and with the historic growth that is forecast for our area, that is no small task.
Thankfully, the deadlines for preparing the department budgets for Athens come at different times. The electric budget year goes from July 1-June 30, and is somewhat more complicated because of the need to tie in with the TVA. The total proposed electricity budget for the City of Athens that is going to be voted on by the Council is for $ 124,864,000. We both buy from and sell to the TVA, so about 99 million is in terms of expense, and the rest is revenue. While the budget request is up 5.1%, it needs to be remembered that already in anticipation of over 19% projected growth, over 2,000 units for houses and apartments have been approved. It is sort of a chicken/egg dilemma, in that some would argue that the City should wait until the new population arrives to be sure they are coming, and some feel that being responsible looks like getting ready for the transplants before they get here. One of the things that everyone who is part of the TVA system agrees to is to provide reciprocal care whenever there is a disaster. In other words, when we had historic storms, other cities came to help us, and we are bound by our agreement with TVA to do the same. We have one or two teams that are ready to help, and that’s an important part of the budget.
“I want to make sure that the people of Athens-Limestone County understand what a great relationship we have with the TVA. They work very hard to supply us with the electricity we need,” the mayor said. He told me that we have built three new substations, and some of the new businesses coming in are going to be so large that they will need their own.
More about budgets and the way they are done. In the fall, the budgets for water, gas, waste water, and the General Fund are proposed. For all budgets, every cent has to be justified, and again, according to Alabama law, it has to be balanced. I laughed out loud when Mayor Ronnie told me that…what a concept! We should see if anyone in Washington, D.C. would take a hint and follow suit. The mayor acknowledged that talking about the need for money before the revenue is there is difficult, which is why they try to be so careful with their requests.
When the City of Athens works on budgets, they take every single line item from the last five years, and compare everything to what is being currently requested. This includes the purchase of power, employee salaries and benefits, and maintenance for each department. They are making the final tweaks to the electricity budget now and will be ready by the end of June.
Mayor Ronnie had to prepare for a conference call with TVA, so with my having been “enlightened re: the electricity” we prayed, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner