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Columbus council begins budget talks

BY BRIAN JONES

brian.jones@packet-media.com

COLUMBUS – The Columbus City Council held a special meeting August 10 to begin discussion of the FY16 budget.

Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong and Chief Financial Officer Milton Rawle briefed the council on revenues and projected expenditures, and said that the FY16 budget as of now includes a 3 percent pay raise for all city employees.

“This is the first of a few meetings we’ll have on this,” Armstrong said. “The process will culminate on Sept. 15. We have got to have a public hearing, which I tentatively have in mind for Sept. 8. At that date we will set the millage and discuss the budget. We are supposed to adopt the millage at that meeting, before we adopt the budget. That doesn’t really make any sense, but that’s the way the law requires us to do it. We have to wait for a week before we can adopt the budget.

“We’ve got some good news this year,” he said. “A mill for the city actually went up $13,000.”

Last year the value of a mill for the City of Columbus was $167,000. This year it is $180,000. By comparison, the value of a Lowndes County mill increased from $504,000 to $544,000. A city school mill increased from $198,000 to $207,000, and a county school mill went up from $331,000 to $332,000.

“That’s really good news, because it’s $1,000 higher than it was back in 2009-10,” Armstrong said. “We’ve been on the decrease. We also have goods news in that the school board has given us a reduction of $306,817 over last year. I haven’t figured the millage yet, but there’s no question that we’re going to have a millage reduction from the school board. What we do with that millage is subject to discussion.

“The not so good news is on the revenue side,” he said. “Revenue is fixed. We can’t do anything about that. We can’t say we’re going to bump it up $275,000. If you look at what we projected for FY15, we were pretty close. We projected $22,665,667. For next FY we’re projecting $23,360,625. That’s an increase of $694,957. If you just look at millage, the increase in a mill will give us like $393,000. If we put extra millage in there, we could get another $450,000, which would give us $843,000. We’re expecting a payment from KioR in this coming year, and we’ve got that on the revenue side at $330,000. One reason we’re not actually up that high is that, if you look at last year’s figure, we have $1,562,809 in proceeds from debt. This year we’re only projecting $275,000. So we’re actually down because we’re not financing. In a way that’s a good thing, because you don’t want your proceeds from debt to become too heavy. When I first came here 9 years ago we were financing about $3 million or $4 million in revenue from debt. That’s not a good source of revenue.

“We are currently at a deficit of about $1.7 million,” Armstrong said. “We started out this process with over $4 million in deficit. We’ve worked that down to $1.7 million. We’re planning to do some financing, which will add revenue, and some cuts that will get us down to at least $220,000.”

For more of the story, see this week’s Packet.Smith

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