COLUMBIA - After a year where the sales tax revenue only grew 1 percent, City Manager Mike Matthes was tightening the city's belt once again. Matthes said he has not seen such a small growth in sales tax in Columbia since the Great Depression. Matthes cited the government's subsidization of Amazon.com and the ability for consumers to shop online without sales tax. This means the city estimates a little under $441 million dollars in total spending for fiscal year 2017.
"This might as well be the toughest budget I have had to make in my career because of the issues the city has as well as the goals we set for the year," Matthes said.
The city wants to improve community relations with the police department and believes it might be stepping in the right direction. Matthes proposed an additional three police officers to keep up with the growing population, but Mayor Brian Treece wants a fourth. The city is also going to spend $700,000 on community policing and is implementing training programs to eliminate bias.
All sworn Columbia police officers will complete training relating to racial profiling and fair and impartial practicing. Matthes credited the work of the Community Outreach Unit, and believes that their work is not going unnotticed.
"Their job is to become the guardians of the neighborhood, not the warriors," Matthes said. He also commented on how the unit is working well to get to know people within the officer's assigned sections, and acting as an outlet for help.
Matthes declined to comment on the current status of the situation regarding Police Chief Ken Burton due to potential litigation, but he believes the department is working to better relations and its communications with the community.