Understanding the newly-passed Council Improvement Fund

Huntsville City Council improvement fund
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 11:06 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Thursday evening Huntsville City Council passed the Council Improvement Fund Amendment. It’s a measure - allowing each council member $75,000 to use in their own district - at their discretion or for the city as a whole.

It was the source of a spirited debate between District 1 Councilman Devyn Keith and District 3 Councilwoman Jennie Robinson.

”We have a process in place, why can’t we use the process in place, what’s the benefit to the taxpayer of doing this, because that should ultimately be our biggest concern,” Robinson argued. “How do taxpayers benefit from this?”

“This is a process we’ve been using, we just haven’t called it this. It legally was a process in this city before it was not and it has been used before and is currently being used, it just doesn’t have this title and it doesn’t have the number,” Keith retorted. “Though you might be against it, understand it comes off very patronizing and condescending when you ask a council member ‘how does this benefit the taxpayers. I wouldn’t support it if I thought it didn’t.”

I got a chance to speak to Councilwoman Robinson Friday afternoon to discuss her issues with the Fund. It provides all five council members with $75,000 to use in their district -- or on the city -- as they see fit.

She worries the Improvement Fund could lack transparency and muddies city council’s current process of handling expenditures. Being in favor of smaller government, she says it would unnecessarily bloat its current procedure.

“Instead of having it come from -- having a few budget amendments come throughout the year, we’re now going to have multiple expenditures that are going to have to be approved and then times five, all the council members,” Robinson explained. “Now we’ve really created a level of bureaucracy that didn’t exist before in a very simple process.”

This amendment is not a permanent fixture, as it only applies to this year’s capital budget. It’s a practice that -- if it works -- city council can continue to implement and adjust the Improvement Fund as they see fit.