COLUMBIA – Candidates for two seats on the Columbia City Council say the Columbia Police Department should rest easy about its budget.
With tax revenue on the decline, the council’s task of formulating the budget has already been the subject of multiple council work sessions. As the economy continues to struggle to break its downward trend, many say the candidates’ hardest task once elected will be to balance the budget.
Second Ward candidates Allan Sharrock and Jason Thornhill and Sixth Ward candidates Barbara Hoppe and Rod Robison all maintain that with many decisions to make, the Police Department’s budget won’t be at risk of being cut, but the candidates say they will tighten the purse strings in different ways around the city.
Sharrock, a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, said that he would like to look at parks and trails for cuts and that the city must examine more business incentives to stimulate the economy and thereby increase tax revenue.
“I don’t think anything should be left off the table,” Sharrock said. “… Everything has to be looked at, examined and discussed.”
His opponent, Thornhill, shared similar sentiments.
“The only thing we know we can do is cut spending,” Thornhill said.
He said that recreation programs would be on his list of possible cuts alongside programs that don’t provide a “good return on the city’s investment.”
Robison said his thoughts on the budget were actually summed up by outgoing Second Ward councilman Chris Janku at a council work session: “Everybody’s going to have to share the pain.”
In order to ration that pain, both Robison and Hoppe said they would like to rely on individual departments’ heads to determine where to make the best cuts.
Hoppe also said that she would like to cut the amount the city spends on its own utility bills.
“In my own observation, sometimes temperatures are too high in the winter, too low in the summer,” Hoppe said. “I'm interested in how the city can trim money off of the utility cost.”
Hoppe also thinks there are certain costs the city pays that should instead be covered by others.
“When we have development in areas ... it should be a policy and the responsibility of the developer to fix the road, put the road back where it was,” Hoppe said, referring to large amounts of wear and tear that are a result of many construction vehicles around developing areas.
The City Council elections will be held April 7.
Missourian reporter Andrew Van Dam contributed to this report.