Columbia City Council finalizing budget

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COLUMBIA - Residents will express their thoughts on fee increases to the Columbia City Council Monday before it finalizes the 2015 city budget. 

City Councilman Michael Trapp said this budget is a move toward improving the city's infrastructure.

"If people are going to take one thing home from the budget is that it's balanced,"  Trapp said. 

One of the items up for discussion at the meeting deals with the city's trash service.  City Manager Mike Matthes proposed eliminating the trash bag voucher program, which currently costs Solid Waste customers $15.42 each month. Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas proposed distributing the vouchers less often each year.  Resident Debbie Robison said she doesn't agree with either option.

"The trash concerns me about some of the changes that have been proposed because one of the things about the current system is it allows us to have a very clean city because people have no penalty for throwing things away," Robison said. "Regardless of the size or how much trash you have it gets picked up."

At the city council meeting, members passed a trash bag sales tax increase.  The council reduced the amount of trash bags provided by a third of the current rate.

In discussion about the trash voucher program changes, Trapp addressed resident concerns about possible added costs.

"I have a commitment to try and keep rates affordable," Trapp said.

The 580-page budget also includes:

  • Fees for planning and zoning
  • Utility fee increases
  • Parking lot permits increases
  • Parking meter and fine increases
Many of these increases will go to add staff to the city's public safety departments. Trapp said the city is consistently growing and needs additional firefighters and police to serve the city.  Voters can expect a property tax increase on the November ballot to supplement funds raised through proposed added fees.

"It costs a lot of money to bring city services to folks, and we have to balance the budget, and so sometimes we have to ask folks to pay more, recognizing that it is difficult," Trapp said.
Overall, the council approved $428 million in spending for the budget in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.