Council unanimously approves 2009 budget

Monday, September 15, 2008 | 11:02 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The City Council unanimously approved the city budget for the 2009 fiscal year on Monday night. The budget totaled $397.6 million, up 1 percent from 2008.

"The budget that is being considered tonight is a balanced budget," said City Manager Bill Watkins.

In the new budget, some fees and rates in various city departments will increase. In Public Health and Human Services, that includes the impoundment fee, immunizations for adults and children, TB testing and STD clinic visits for out-of-county patients. After an amendment from the council, the two newly added and most expensive contraceptive options will no longer be offered to Family Planning patients.

There will also be an increase in city utility rates, which will have an average monthly customer impact of $7.55.

The budget will add 26 new city personnel positions, including four police officers and two firefighters. Two of those positions were added by the council's amendment to the city manager's budget. Other positions include the retention of the recreation specialist for Paquin Tower and the possible addition of a city sustainability director in six months.

The budget will provide city workers with a raise of 25 cents per hour, along with merit raises of up to 2 percent

The Paquin Tower program would have been eliminated under the first budget draft, a cut that resulted in some outcry from residents. The council amendment will restore the program to full funding for six months, then continue with partial funding for the following six months.

For public transit, the bus fares will double as proposed by the city manager, with the exception of the 20-day unlimited full and half fare passes, which will only increase to $35 and $15 respectively.

The document approved Monday night is still largely consistent with the budget presented by the city manager in July. The council changed only a small portion, most notably continuing support for the Paquin Tower recreation program and reducing the increase in bus fares.

The council was allotted $125,000 to distribute to departments; it also reallocated another $298,300 within the budget. To find that extra money, additional cuts and scale backs were necessary, including the elimination of Columbia's Regional Planning Commission membership, the closing of the lake for swimming at Pirate's Landing and the elimination of support for Cosmo-Bethel Park's winter trout fishing program.

The reallocation fund was a new way for the council to alter the city manager's budget, though the council always makes changes to the budget.

"I think it's been a very good process," said Second Ward Councilman Christopher Janku.

Many of the council members felt the revised budget, with the help of the reallocation fund, closely reflected what the citizens of Columbia wanted.

"I think we've met a lot of the criteria the citizens have set out for us," said Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser.

The new budget, including all fee and rate increases, will take effect Oct. 1.


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Charles Dudley Jr September 16, 2008 | 4:49 a.m.

The participants of the Adaptive Recreational Program at Paquin Tower are very grateful to the city council for helping to save this program and as such now we also ask them to begin to work with a committee being formed of concerned citizens to ensure this program that is open to the citizens of Columbia is funded for the long run of Columbia's future.

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