Public Voices Concerns on Columbia's Proposed Budget

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COLUMBIA - Monday night's city council meeting held the first public hearing on the city of Columbia's fiscal year 2012 proposed budget.  At the meeting, folks came out to support the recommendations from three commissions, but a couple people spoke critically of the budget's proposed cuts to public transit.  City Manager Mike Matthes proposed to reduce miles on three city bus routes and eliminate the bus services all together on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.  Sam Robinson, the co-director of CoMET - or Columbians for Modern and Efficient Transit - spoke at the meeting and he thinks public transit is the wrong place to cut funding.

"We are concerned those cuts will have a detrimental effect.  Those who will be most effected by these cuts are the working class and those that are living in poverty.  Both of these groups rely heavily on public transportation," said Robinson.

Matthes' budget proposal also includes increased funding for street maintenance and paving by $585,000, a 25-cent-per-hour raise for all city employees, an 8% increase in water rates, and a 15% increase in sewer rates for Columbia residents.

The projected general fund is $75.4 million and Matthes plans to spend $77.7 million leaving a $2.3 million deficit that he plans to eliminate by fiscal year 2014.

There will be a city council work session for the proposed budget on August 22 and two more public hearings during the city council meetings on September 6 and September 19.  The city council will finalize the fiscal year 2012 budget during the September 19 meeting.