City returns half of budget surplus to thrifty departments

Monday, May 20, 2013 | 11:32 p.m. CDT; updated 11:53 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 20, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council approved the return of almost $1 million to city departments that came under budget during the 2012 fiscal year.

Amid severe weather warnings, the council agreed to disburse $951,741 among 20 city departments, honoring an incentive it had offered to return half the unspent funds saved by city departments during fiscal year 2012.

The money approved for disbursement Monday is half of the city's $1.9 million surplus.

The money each department receives will be separated from its operating budget so that it can use the money beyond the current fiscal year.

Budget surplus allocation, 'Blind' Boone Home

The council also received a report from City Manager Mike Matthes outlining suggested uses for the remaining half of the surplus, including the allocation of funds for completing the restoration of the J.W. "Blind" Boone Home at 10 N. Fourth St.

A report submitted from Matthes to the council recommends that $325,000 from the surplus be used for interior and exterior renovations of the Boone Home.

Originally the home of jazz musician John William "Blind" Boone, the house was purchased by the city in 2000, and renovations to the exterior of the home were completed in 2009.

In February, Mayor Bob McDavid asked the council to consider setting aside $500,000 toward completing the renovations.

According to Matthes' report, it was originally estimated in 2010 that it would cost $487,264 to complete necessary repairs to the home, but new projections have estimated that $326,855 should complete the project with the use of city and volunteer labor.

A letter sent to Matthes by the president of the John William Boone Heritage Foundation, Clyde Ruffin, says that once the restoration of the home is completed it will be used for meetings, exhibits, musical performances and educational programs for students. 

Related to the city manager's proposal, the council took its first steps to hold a public hearing for allocating the funds to restore the home.

In addition to the approved disbursement to city departments and funds proposed to help complete the Boone home renovations, Matthes is proposing the remaining 2012 surplus go toward the following items:

  • $100,000 to the Disabilities Commission to fund four projects, including the construction of more accessible street level parking downtown, a pilot project to add weekday evening hours for Para-transit Service to allow interested parties to attend city meetings, auditory pedestrian signals at the College Avenue and Broadway intersection and at Providence and Broadway intersection and the addition of rubber tiles at the Lions-Stephens Park playground.
  • $150,000 for a revolving loan fund with Regional Economic Development Inc. for start-up businesses in Columbia.
  • $50,000 for the MicroLoan program of Central Missouri Community Action to assist and educate individuals interested in starting a small business in Columbia.
  • $200,000 to conduct a pilot project to allow Columbia residents to select an infrastructure project through an online poll.
  • $126,741 to assist in establishing a permanent location for the Day Center, a space which would include an emergency winter shelter, a soup kitchen, space for the Interfaith Day Center and office space for the Voluntary Action Center and VA Hospital homeless services staff.

The council gave its support for Matthes' proposal, and the projects will eventually come before the council for individual approval.

Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.

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Corey Parks May 21, 2013 | 8:17 a.m.

If Blind Boone home was important enough to be remodeled at such a large cost then groups would be created and fundraisers would be approved. Tax Payer money should never be used for such things and the Mayor should know better. He was elected to look over Columbia and not to distribute money as he sees fit.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield May 21, 2013 | 10:49 a.m.

I agree, Corey. In fact, a group was created: the J.W. Boone Heritage Foundation, which raised $16K. That paltry amount shows how much people care about this house. Unfortunately some council members want to ignore that and pump even more taxpayer money into it. Ridiculous.

(Report Comment)
Ken Geringer May 21, 2013 | 12:28 p.m.

I'd rather see the money used to put new roofs on the homes of people with limited incomes and failing roofs. Maybe buy some of the abandoned homes around, tear them down and sell the lots. Or just about any other thing than spend more money on a project that will continue to suck money. If we own it, we should sell it, and let nature take its course. And the same thing for the wreck of a building on Rangeline.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 21, 2013 | 12:36 p.m.

This is a political and financial train wreck. Since when is it a good thing to return money to city departments that DID THEIR JOBS and saved the taxpayers money? At least give us an accounting of the things that were done without so we can assess if those things now need to be done.

And I remain appalled at the $326,855 new cost for the BB building. I can build a nice new home for that, so exactly why does it cost that much to refurbish an old one? What are the details?

(Report Comment)
Ken Geringer May 21, 2013 | 6:20 p.m.

How could we pay $200,000 to ask the citizens their opinion? Lets just fix the broken sidewalks downtown, or plant some trees in appropriate spots. Cut it out you knuckleheads.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle May 21, 2013 | 8:13 p.m.

It was my understanding from earlier reports on the budget that the $200K was for the infrastructure project. The online poll part is just how we get to decide what it gets spent on (instead of the usual internal decision process for project expenditures).

But... the way it's worded here does kinda make it sound like the online poll part is gonna cost that much. That's crazy talk.

Shaina, do you have any additional info on that point?

(Report Comment)

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