City council member highlights two major changes in new fiscal budget
COLUMBIA - According to the new 2017 fiscal year budget, the Columbia City Council plans to move the Office of Sustainability from the City Manager’s Office to the Utilities Department. The council also will move the airport branch from Public Works and Transportation to Economic Development.
The city council meets Monday night to decide on the budget.
Michael Trapp, city council member for the Second Ward, said the changes should benefit both sectors.
“We realize most of our sustainability efforts rely on utility operations and that allows us to put all of our conservation, education, and energy-efficient experts under one house,” he said.
Sustainability manager Barbara Buffaloe reiterated the change will help increase effectiveness.
“It really helps with our efficiency and it also helps with showing that the sustainability office works across all departments, and it’s trying to improve our own resources,” Buffaloe said.
“This move also integrates more of our environmental educators that we have within our utilities so our energy educator, storm water educator and waste minimization coordinator into one coordinated shop, where we can work together on improving sustainability and our internal operations,” she said.
Buffaloe added goals for sustainability are to save more of the utility benefits and resources from the switch to the Utilities Department. Also, the plan is to do more with outreach into the community about sustainability practices and help Columbia with natural resource implementation.
Trapp also indicated the change for the airport division is a logical switch from a management and application perspective.
“Our economic development director Stacey Button has run an airport in the past," Trapp said. "It just makes sense because the reason we have an airport is that it’s an important part of our economic development activities."
The budget is set to take effect on Oct. 1 when the new fiscal year starts.
Trapp added the budget is balanced and the council is only planning for a one percent growth in sales tax. Usually, Trapp said the number hovers closer to around three percent for sales tax.
“It’s a budget cutting year and all of our departments are taking three percent budget cuts across the board,” he said. “In spite of that, we’ve been able to do a modest raise for our hardworking employees and we’ve balanced the budget.”
In terms of citizen response and comment on the budget, Trapp explained the budget is a complicated piece of the agenda and the general feeling is to fund more police officers.
“We’re keeping up with the growth and have a plan to add three new officers this year,” he said.
“Even in overall tight budget times, we still consider public safety the preeminent function of government,” Trapp added.
Lastly, Trapp mentioned the city is doing more with less in terms of efficiency and employment over the last 10 years, and the tight budget should not be concerning.