Today's Question: What programs should be trimmed in the city's 2010 budget?

Thursday, July 23, 2009 | 8:28 a.m. CDT

Columbia residents might be in for a bit of a surprise when city leaders release next year’s budget. After years of riding high on the hog, this is the first time in decades the city has had to deal with contracting revenues for consecutive years. And there’s no beating around the bush. Some programs will be cut. Some fees will be raised. The question is, which ones?

City Manager Bill Watkins will begin releasing numbers next Thursday when he holds a press conference on the city’s capital improvement plan. The staff has been looking at budget numbers all summer, and the City Council formed subcommittees to develop expertise in different budget areas. By the end of August, the council will hold work sessions to make budget amendments, followed by public hearings in September and then try to pass a final document by the end of September.


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Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade have indicated that the area likely to receive the most scrutiny is Parks and Recreation, especially city-sponsored recreation programs.

Skala estimated the city needs to find ways to save around $1.5 million in next year’s budget and said recreation programs will most likely be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Some of those program fees will have to be raised to reduce the city subsidy, and some programs may need to be dropped altogether, Skala said. Wade has indicated a desire to target fee raises on recreation programs serving the upper and middle classes. But there’s still going to be a lot of pressure on the council by interest groups to keep their favored programs. (Recall the city’s attempt to cut some money from the Paquin Tower program last year and the outcry that ensued.) Better to let the council know early what battles they will have to fight.

What programs should be trimmed in the city’s 2010 budget?

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Charles Dudley Jr July 23, 2009 | 10:36 a.m.

Why don't they start by cutting Bill Watkins' salary and the other top department heads too. That will save a huge bundle of money.

Building/financing/improving no new parks another.

Not building the newest pig of a structure in down town another load of money.

How many other areas can be cut besides the social programs that help keep this city and it's citizens with something to do besides roaming the streets.

It is always the citizens who suffer the most in this but never ever those at the top with the top salaries is it?

Oh I can here the Liberal Progressive crowd crying already.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro July 23, 2009 | 1:59 p.m.

1. Close down the ARC. The city did fine before it was built. Attendance at the Armory would increase. As MU's Rec center is underutilized, perhaps an arrangement can be made for Columbia high schoolers to have some access as an incentive, reward and/or good-will towards their potential future college attendees. The ARC won't be missed. It should never have been built if we couldn't afford it. Douglass Park should have sufficed.
2. "Creatively"/but legally use what's left of the 20+ million dollar federal grant in areas which we've traditionally used city money for.
3. Sell off some of the land we've amassed over the decades. We apparently need liquid assets, not hard assets.
4. Give up the idea of ombudsman and sustainability directors, (and the additional support staff), to save on new salary strains.
5. Looking at the organization chart of Parks and Rec, I would suggest some consolidation of departments and job descriptions. They seem to be very staff heavy and bureaucratic.
6. I'm not paid enough to give out more then 5 suggestions. That's it, for now.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking July 23, 2009 | 2:28 p.m.


1) The ARC actually pays for itself, as does the city golf course. The most subsidized programs are community recreation (95% subsidized), Senior/Adaptive programs (62%), then aquatic/outdoor/travel/sports (50%). (p. 284)

2) Creative and legal are often two very different things. Perhpas we should just spend the money as planned and worry about getting funding for sidewalks and things from other sources.

3) Now is not the time to sell land. They may wind up buying it back for a lot more in the future.


(Report Comment)
Melinda Lockwood July 23, 2009 | 3:09 p.m.

Do not build the parking garage. Government has no business owning and leasing out retail space in this structure to begin with. We are all cutting back and doing our part to try and conserve, both money and resources. Building a multi-story parking garage right now is not prudent.

(Report Comment)

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