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City council approves mayor’s budget

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Mayor Kristen Brown got her first city budget approved Tuesday, but the Columbus City Council imposed greater restrictions on how she can spend some of the money.

The council passed an amendment that would require the mayor to seek council approval for certain expenditures from the capital improvement and cumulative capital funds.

Those funds are part of a 2013 city budget that has $2.4 million less in expenditures than this year’s budget ($48.6 million to $46.2 million).

Councilman Jim Lienhoop, who proposed the amendment, said it was to provide greater oversight on how money is spent.

The capital improvement fund had been listed as one line item of $1.2 million. With the amendment, the money is split into two pools: $100,000, from which projects and items do not need council approval, and the remaining $1.1 million, from which projects and items need council approval. It would be up to the mayor to decide from which pool to pay for a project or item. Expenditures from the $185,000 cumulative capital fund would need council approval with the amendment.

“I think we ought to be approving projects of that magnitude one project at a time,” Lienhoop said.

The amendment caught the mayor by surprise because it had not been mentioned previously at council meetings or during the budget hearings.

“I would have prepared the budget differently had I known,” she said.

Brown argued that certain important capital expenditures for things such as machinery already had been discussed and identified as needs to be reflected in the budget, so she didn’t understand why the amendment was necessary.

Jeff Logston, the city’s director of operations and finance, said such a process could slow things down a lot.

“I understand your position of wanting to be up to date (on expenditures), but there is a fine line between oversight and micromanagement,” he said.

Lienhoop said the amendment was necessary because the cost of an item or project could change, or priorities could change.

Also Tuesday, the council tabled the proposed smoking ban until its Nov. 7 meeting so that council members can talk with representatives from more bars and private clubs about the issue, and talk to county officials about the possibility of a countywide smoking ban.

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