City council approves budget

Columbus city councilmen gave final approval of a $52.5 million budget for 2016 budget as proposed by Mayor Kristen Brown.

Councilman Frank Miller voted against the budget in protest that the state of Indiana does not allow cities to know the tax rate the budget will require before approving the next year’s budget.

“I can’t tell a taxpayer how a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote affects their pocketbook,” Miller said. “I just think we are doing it backwards in Indiana. I would like to see this addressed.”

Councilmen approved the budget on first reading Oct. 6 without making any changes or suggestions.

The budget will be sent to the Department of Local Government and Finance, where tax rates will be set.

The $52.5 million budget is about 6 percent higher than this year’s $49.6 million budget.

The additional $2.9 million in additional funds is anticipated to be raised without a tax increase, leaving a cushion of about $18,000 between anticipated tax revenue and projected expenses for next year, City Attorney Jeff Logston said. The ordinance for appropriations and tax rates shows the tax levy increasing from $28,830,859 this year to $30,255,268 projected for 2016.

The budget includes 2 percent cost-of-living raises for city employees and elected officials at a cost of about $700,000.

In other personnel changes in the budget, the city will:

Add a full-time, second-shift mechanic in the transit department, $55,256.

Pay $50,000 in consulting fees for the Metropolitan Planning Organization, 80 percent of which is expected to be refunded by the federal government.

Add a full-time Animal Care Services officer, $58,167.

Remove a multimedia resource position in operations and finance at a savings of $52,375.

Councilmen also approved a capital improvements budget that includes:

A $6 million road project, reconstructing Rocky Ford Road from Talley to Taylor roads, with the city’s share estimated at $2.2 million.

A police department capital request of $635,000 for vehicles, vests, SWAT vests, soundproofing the interrogation room, a new K-9 and laptop replacement.

A fire department request for $756,962, for station maintenance and replacing Squad 1, a heavy rescue piece of equipment used in accident extrications and mutual-aid calls on water rescues. The current Squad 1 is a 1998 model.

Capital expense for a van for Animal Care Services and interior and exterior maintenance, $85,000.

$479,745 to replace the city’s 800 Megahertz radio system, although agreements are pending with Columbus Regional Hospital, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. and Bartholomew County to reimburse $100,536 from each entity in 2016.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.