COLUMBIA - At the final work session Wednesday for the 2009 fiscal budget, City Council discussed amendments that would use funds to soften a proposed bus fare increase and provide a continuation of the Paquin Tower recreation program.
These amendments will be added to the city's 2009 fiscal budget, which the council hopes to have ready for approval by the end of its Sept. 15 meeting.
In past work sessions, the council had discussed using $175,000 to eliminate a bus fare increase proposed in the city manager's budget.
But City Manager Bill Watkins said the increase is necessary to keep up with inflation and rising gas prices. He also said if the council subsidizes the amount of the fee increase this year, it would have to continue its support with ever-increasing amounts.
The council decided Wednesday in favor of the fare increases, though it also recommended using $12,500 - instead of $175,000 - to lessen the increase of the 30-day unlimited full fare fastpass from $40 to $35 and the 30-day unlimited half-fare fastpass from $20 to $15.
The council said it hopes the smaller increase on the passes would give a break to the bus system's frequent passengers.
After an outpouring of public comments during Tuesday's city council meeting, the council also decided Wednesday to allocate $72,000, up $11,000 from the previous proposed amount, for a scaled-back version of the program that provides activities and transportation to Paquin Tower residents.
Motivated by residents' fears of losing their transportation to the grocery store, the council decided to fully fund the program for six months and then partially fund the program for the following six months.
"It feels like we really need to buy some time here," said First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz.
The council said it hoped the community and potential partners would step up in the coming year to help fund the Paquin Tower program, though some councilmen also expressed worry that none would.
Hindman said the council needs to realize that the incentive to help has been there since it proposed cutting the program and nothing has happened.
Also to be included in the final proposal of budget amendments is continuing the operation of the Lake of the Woods pool and the possible hiring of a sustainability director halfway through the year.
The council was able to create $423,300 in cuts and changes to fully fund the $419,900 worth of projects in the budget amendments.