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2021 FY Budget Proposal Reflects Damaged Economy, Offers Reforms

Corey Davidson / KBIA

Friday morning’s announcement of City Manager John Glascock’s proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year had one major theme: uncertainty in the future.

According to a document provided at the announcement, the city was subject to declining sales tax growth, primarily as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on consumer activity.

The city is also expected to lose revenue from the cancellation of events such as the Show-Me State Games and the Roots N’ Blues Festival. This also comes with further uncertainty when it comes to plans for the city’s colleges, public schools, and business operations as the pandemic progresses.

Overall, the proposed budget calls for cuts of $13.9 million to on-going costs citywide.

Glascock says changes need to be made as the year progresses, and it depends on how the pandemic plays out.

“We will review closely throughout the coming fiscal year to determine if additional cuts may need to be made to this budget, or if additional expenditures for core services can be appropriated,” Glascock said.

The proposed budget calls for the elimination of 78.5 full time equivalent positions in the city government - 11.5 of which are currently filled. Glascock also does not recommend any employee pay adjustments at this time, though that could change halfway through the next fiscal year.

“Due to the uncertainty of next year’s revenues as a result of COVID-19 and no additional revenue sources were secured, I cannot recommend any pay adjustments in conjunction with the beginning of the fiscal year,” Glascock said.

The proposed budget cuts from many departments, and calls for reform of others.

It’s recommended that the Columbia Police Department have many functions reformed, in response to recent community action.

The Community Outreach Unit is recommended to change, and the whole department will receive training.

“The Outreach Unit will consist of 6 officers and a sergeant, the community policing philosophy will continue to be taught and modeled. In the coming year, officers will be evaluated by criteria that supports community policing,” Glascock said.

The police department may also be subject to reallocation of school resource officers, and take on the additional responsibility of downtown parking enforcement.

“It’ll be a uniformed officer, they’ll be doing it. It probably won’t be as intense as it was with just having parking enforcement concentrated on it,” Glascock said.

The proposal also includes plans for a second police department spokesperson to allow for better communication.

The City Council will hold a full-day work session on the budget, which is scheduled on Tuesday Aug. 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Staff will provide more information on the numbers behind the proposal, and answer questions from the council.

Residents may also attend and provide feedback at three public hearings on Aug 17., Sept. 8 and Sept. 21. 

The finalized budget is set to be adopted by the council on Sept 21.