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City Faces $1.58 Million Deficit On Budget

Members of the Columbus City Council met last Thursday at City Hall to try and hash out a budget deficit they’re facing in trying to make work the proposed $22.5 million budget.
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box, Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart and Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin met Thursday, along with Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong and City Financial Chief Mike Bernsen. With no quorum, there was no need to take minutes, but Gavin informed us they were there to “work”.
Ideas were tossed around by the 5 men. Box recommended cutting overtime, not making new equipment purchases and also not hiring several new-hires that were needed to fill various positions.
Gavin and Stewart also weighed-in on the overtime problem (by the Police and Fire Department, but mostly by the Police Department). Overtime makes up nearly a third of the budget deficit.
The city will have to adopt a budget by September 15th.
A 3% pay raise is also being proposed for all city employees. Box, Gavin and Stewart all expressed a desire to make that happen!
Bernsen said there was a possibility, if cuts can’t be made to the proposed budget to make it work, the city would need some short-term financing (borrowing money to pay bills).
Bernsen said one of the new-hire positions the city had approved at the last council meeting was training officer. Box said he had previously understood, when making the decision to hire a training officer, that the money for the hiring of the officer was already in the budget.

“It’s obvious that we are gonna have to make some deep cuts,” said Gavin.

Some of the projects that make up monetary allocations in the budget will also be dependant upon whether the various projects receive the grants applied for by the city, Gavin noted. He gave as an example the Bluecutt Road project (in his ward) that would add a couple of turning lanes and traffic signals at various points (It was noted that part of that grant, and match by the city, had already been approved in adding turning lanes and traffic signals where Bluecutt intersects with 7th Street near Heritage as well as Military Rd.)
Gavin said another turn lane and traffic signal had been applied for where Bluecutt intersects with Lee Drive, which would add another $125,000 match for the city to come up with.
Another million dollar grant had been applied for to add a couple of lanes to Bluecutt as well.
Box also proposed cutting 30% from each city department head’s budget. The councilmen also proposed taking funding back to the same level as it was in the 2011 budget.
All in all, Box said the process will be a painful one because, “these are really tough times economically.”
At the council meeting Tuesday night, the council adopted an ordinance to move the city limits. Adoption of the ordinance is the first step in the annexation process. Filing to Chancery Court will be the next.
One of the main areas to be annexed is the area around the new middle school which was built in the county. The school sits at the corner of Hwy. 45 and 373.

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