Columbia City Council begins fiscal year 2011 budget hearings

Monday, August 16, 2010 | 11:18 p.m. CDT; updated 8:40 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 17, 2010

COLUMBIA — At its meeting Monday night, the City Council began its formal fiscal 2011 budget hearings and heard budget recommendation presentations from four city groups.

The council will also hold work sessions Aug. 28, and Aug. 30 with the goal of having a list of possible budget amendments to introduce Sept. 7, prior to the next public hearings.

City Manager Bill Watkins warned that budget cuts now would soften the blow of dropping revenues, which are due to hit the city hard in fiscal 2012, a year that, in Watkins’ words, is “going to be a major booger.”

“In this year and next year’s budget, which we’ll be working on for the next six weeks, we’ll be making some of the reductions necessary to get us through 2012 without going through a wall,” he said.

Watkins proposed a fiscal year 2011 budget of $385,477,179, a 17 percent decrease from fiscal year 2010.

Mindful of Watkins’ warnings, the Commission on Cultural Affairs and the Community Development Commission, the Public Communications Resource Advisory Committee and the Boone County Community Services Advisory Commission gave their recommendations.

Community Development Commission

The Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnership funds assist the city in sponsoring affordable housing and community development activities. Eleven of the projects would use Community Development Block Grant funds, and four would use HOME Investment Partnership funds.

The Community Development Block Grant and the HOME Investment Partnerships are both federal formula grants and thus require no local funding.

Mitchell Ritter, a member of the Community Development Commission, explained the application and review process to the City Council before listing the commission’s recommendations.

The Community Development Commission reviewed 24 project and program applications for funding. Nineteen were considered for the fiscal year 2011 budget; 15 were recommended for funding.

East Sidewalk Phase 3 was the most expensive project proposed. The city manager proposed $392,000 in funding, based on the bid from Phase 1 of the project. The CDC proposed $326,956, which would allow more money to be distributed to other projects.

Centro Latino asked for $145,000 for a facility acquisition project. The Community Development Commission recommended $138,000, and the city manager’s budget recommended $88,000.

Centro Latino has a lease on its property until July 2011. Under the proposed plan, the city would then purchase the renovated building for an amount that would not exceed the appraised value of the property at purchase time.

Ritter said the Community Development Commission allowed for enough money to purchase the building for Centro Latino, appraised after the improvements.

Watkins said his monetary allotment allows the project to be funded over two years. He said if a commitment was made the first year, that money could also be allotted the next year.

Commission on Cultural Affairs

Representatives from arts and cultural organizations spoke about their need for continued funding of the arts as part of the presentation for the Commission on Cultural Affairs proposed budget for 2011.

The Commission on Cultural Affairs is appointed by the City Council and assists the Office of Cultural Affairs in the planning and promotion of artistic and cultural activities and development.

The arts increase tourism and enhance education, said Katherine Harris, chairwoman of the Commission on Cultural Affairs.

"City funding encourages all this for citizens and visitors, alike," Harris said.

She added that the arts and cultural events benefit the city's revenue through food sales, sales tax, lodging and transportation costs.

The Office of Cultural Affairs received 18 funding applications for projects;$153,490 was requested in the applications.

The Commission on Cultural Affairs proposed an overall budget of $99,000 for the Office of Cultural Affairs for fiscal year 2011. The Commission on Cultural Affairs uses a formula based on the Missouri Arts Council to score the applicants.

Columbia resident Tootie Burns spoke in support of arts and cultural events, such as the University Concert Series and Art in the Park, and the financial benefits they have on the city.

"I think there's a ripple affect by having these events," Burns said.

She mentioned the increased lodging, food and housing revenue that come from arts events.

Peter Yronwode, a member of the Mid-Missourian Traditional Country Dancers and chairman of the Spring Breakdown Dance Weekend/Family Dance Series, saidhis organization's two-day annual event brings people from all around the country to Columbia.

All organizations that apply for funding must have 501(c)3 status. All requests are limited to $10,000.

Public Communications Resource Advisory Committee

Ewell Lawson of the Public Communications Resource Advisory Committee said the committee was proud of its past accomplishments.

"One of our crowning achievements was putting (the City Council) proceedings on the Internet," he said.

This year, the committee is requesting $50,000 as part of the budget for fiscal year 2011 and is recommending $24,807 for four projects. The committee received five applications for projects; last year, it received 12 applications.

Funding for the public communications projects comes from a 5 percent gross receipts tax on video service providers. Three percent of the tax proceeds supports the city's government access television channel, run by the Public Communications Department, and the remaining 2 percent is used to pay for public access television services through Columbia Access Television, as well as contracts with other organizations providing communication services.

The committee is recommending funding for the following projects:

  • The Disabilities Forum, proposed by Disabilities Media. The project has two parts: bringing city officials and disabled people together for round-table discussions and creating a blog for information and discussion.
    Total project cost: $20,000
    Group requested: $15,000
    Committee recommended: $13,575
  • The Early Detection and Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease Project, proposed by the Alzheimer's Association. In this project, physician and media outreach and community education, the association aims to increase early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.
    Total project cost: $5,950
    Group requested: $4,450
    Committee is suggesting $3,819
  • The Know Your Neighbor 2-1-1 Program, proposed by the Heart of Missouri United Way. This project targets children, families and Columbia neighborhoods with the goal of increasing neighborhood awareness and safety and collecting information that could be used in emergencies.
    Total project cost: $15,000
    Group requested: $7,500
    Committee recommended: $6,200
  • The Third Goal International Film Festival, proposed by the Central Missouri Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.
    Total project cost: $15,000
    Group requested: $1,500
    Committee recommended: $1,212

Boone County Community Services Advisory Commission

Commission member Cathy Thorpe recommended level funding for fiscal year 2011 in her presentation to the City Council.

Because the commission recently revamped its funding policy, the commission will not recommend dollar amounts for specific groups until December, after the commission knows how much money it has to work with.

Proposals were due in July and are being evaluated, said Manager of Community Services Steve Hollis.

Check back with the Missourian for more information about the Boone County Community Services Advisory Commission's new funding policies.

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