Columbia City Council to hold weekend budget work session

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council will hold a public budget work session Saturday morning so residents can comment on the proposed budget. 

At the last city council meeting, City Manager Mike Matthes presented the proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year. The budget includes several utility rate increases. Matthes said the city is steadily losing revenue as more shoppers take their business online and avoid local taxes. 

"The Internet isn't a fad," Matthes said, expressing a need to bring in revenue outside of taxes. 

The budget includes a 2 percent increase in electric rates. This money, about $4.26 a month for the average consumer according to Matthes, will go toward operating and maintenance expenses. This increase alone is estimated to raise $2,405,000 annually. 

The budget also includes a 6 percent hike on sewer fees, a raise that was voter-approved. That increase is expected to raise $336,000 annually. 

A third increase would raise various "water service" fees, such as tap and meter fees. These water rate increases are expected to bring in an additional $244,000 a year. 

The work session will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. The meeting will be held in the council chambers inside City Hall. The council is hoping for more feedback on the proposed budget. Residents who spoke at Monday's council meeting raised concerns that these increases would disproportionately affect low-income households. 

Following Saturday's work session, the council will allow for public feedback during its next two regular Monday meetings. The council will vote on the budget at its September 15 meeting. 

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