ATHENS, Ala. — Athens is the biggest city in limestone county and now they've got the budget to prove it.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks says he wants to pay salaries that compete with Huntsville and Decatur, so they had to increase the budget.
The 2022 Athens General Fund Budget totals more than $34 million.
Limestone County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Alabama, and this new budget will help the city keep up.
Marks said, "We've got some very exciting news. The city of Athens finished extremely well, even during the tough times of covid and other issues."
More than $10 million will go towards first responders like firefighters and police officers.
Marks explains, "We raised them to a level, an entry-level of where we could compete with especially with the surrounding cities. For example, like the bigger cities that are paying high salaries. whether it be Decatur, Madison, Huntsville, whoever."
And as Athens continues to expand, it's trying to prepare the best way it can and make sure they are addressing priorities for the city.
Mayor Marks elaborated on the priorities: "I know that public safety has to remain our top priority. If you look at public safety in your community, being your priority, then you have to put resources into that for police, fire, electric workers and all of those people."
A boom in population will bring more shoppers to Athens, which is great for the economy because 40% of the general fund budget is made up of sales tax.
As the city and county grow, Marks says, "You know, one of our biggest challenges continues to be, as fast as we're growing, I believe the second fastest-growing county in the state of Alabama, will be to continue to look at infrastructure."
The goal is to bring bigger companies to Athens and they need a competitive budget to do so.
In the next few years, the city hopes to unveil a new park that will connect to the purple cup district in the downtown area.