The Columbia City council voted Monday night to approve a $440.9 million budget for the 2017 fiscal year. The budget included some increases in residential and commercial utility fees, and spending to hire four new police officers.
City Manager Mike Matthes provided a brief presentation over the utility fees and explained that although it may look as if there is a deficit in the budget, there is not.
“When you get into utilities you can spend more than you take in a year because what we do is save up over time for projects and we do a big project in one year,” Matthes said. “So it creates an appearance like there’s a deficit even though we’re not really spending more money than we have. We’re just spending more money than we brought in that year.”
The council made an amendment to the plan to add new police officers. The budget originally called to hire three new officers, but the council increased that to four.
“I think we need all of the extra help we could get in the police department. Especially if we’re going to re-address the schedule and make sure that it’s something that our patrol officers can live with,” Mayor Brian Treece said.
Discussion of the Columbia Access Television (CAT TV) budget took up a significant portion of the meeting. According to President Shelly Silvey, CAT TV received $200,000 from the city budget in 2006 and has since dropped to as low as $25,000.
Ward 5 Council Member Laura Nauser says it’s unfair for CAT TV to constantly petition at meetings for its funding.
“It’s unfair to the people of CAT TV every year to have to come and petition us to get additional funds or to keep their funding stream going,” said Nauser. “So we need to either decide are we going to fund this? To what level are we going to fund it? And where are we going to obtain those funds from so that there is consistency so that we don’t have to have this conversation every single year.”