Columbia set to OK budget

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COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of life in Monroe County, and financial planning for the City of Columbia is no different. 

Columbia City Administrator Doug Brimm gave a report on the projected budget for Fiscal Year 2022 during a Columbia City Council Committee of the Whole meeting April 12. 

Brimm announced a surplus of only $12,732 in the city’s general fund compared to surpluses of over $1 million for FY2020 and FY2021. He expects that number to change because the city is anticipating about $1.3 dollars to come from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Brimm said Columbia is “waiting on direction” for how to proceed with the process to receive funds and they would not be reflected in the current projected budget.

The projected ending balance in the city’s general fund for FY2021 is $3.75 million with the ending balance for FY2022 being $3.73 million. The ending balance for FY2020 was $2.68 million.

“Due the COVID pandemic, a lot of the plans and initiatives that were programmed for FY2021 were placed on hold,” Brimm explained as an account for the projected final balances.

The most affected fund for FY2022 as a result of COVID-related delays is the city’s capital development fund, which has a projected spending deficit of $745,918 due to a number of projects that will begin later than scheduled.

Upcoming and ongoing projects in the capital improvement budget include work on Quarry, Old Bluff, DD, Centerville and Valmeyer roads as well as construction and improvements to the Bolm-Schuhkraft connector and GM&O trails, among others.  

The capital development fund projected ending balance for FY2022 is $327,705 compared to a little over $800,000 in FY2020 and over $1 million in FY2021.

The city’s park improvement fund will also face a spending deficit as the city resumes projects delayed due to COVID-19.

For the 2021-22 fiscal calendar, Columbia expects a 5.16 percent increase in park expenses. Upcoming projects include work at Bolm-Schuhkraft Park resealing tennis courts and replacing a pavilion and water fountains.

The parks budget will also experience a debt service as it transfers funds to the Creekside Park alternative revenue bond fund from 2020 – much of the money for that project coming from video gambling revenue.

Another department facing a deficit is the water and sewer operations fund. Even though the ending fund balance will be similar to past years, delayed water main replacements and repairs as well as utility and dump truck replacement for the upcoming fiscal year pull from surpluses from prior years.

Motor fuel tax revenue is projected to be lower for the second year in a row, with ending numbers for FY2021 expected to be down $91,315 and an even sharper decline of $236,639 for FY2022 and an ending balance of $287,445, about $280,000 less than the ending balance of $615,399 in FY2020.

Brimm blames a “decrease in receipts” and a 20 percent increase in materials and supplies for the MFT fund deficit.    

The city’s corporate fund, which covers administrative costs, is expected to increase 6.64 percent from FY2021. Part of the increase includes a $447,500 transfer to the city’s ambulance fund, reflecting a 28.4 percent increase to that particular fund from the past year.

Part of that fund’s increase is due to consideration of hiring an additional full-time paramedic and purchasing a new ambulance and new EMS chief vehicle. 

Brimm also explained that part of the administrative cost increase is due to the city’s implementation of new software that will serve as the main accounting program and also provide better account service options for residents once implemented. He stated the city had “outgrown” the previous system.

Another area that will see an increase in allotted funds for FY2022 is the police department. Brimm reported an expected 4.17 percent increase for enforcement expenses and a 2.47 percent increase for dispatch services. 

Brimm elaborated that $69,000 would go toward two patrol vehicles for the Columbia Police Department and that nearly $55,000 would be spent to replace 20 in-car radio communication systems. 

Brimm also anticipates adding an additional telecommunications professional to Columbia’s emergency dispatch team.

A new position that may be added in the upcoming year is a city planner. The position was discussed for FY2021 but was never acted upon. The line item for this position would be in the community development fund, which is expected to grow .28 percent for the cost of an “assumed Emergency Management Agency vehicle lease.” 

The Department of Public Works budget saw a .64 percent decrease overall for FY2022, but street and sidewalk projects saw a 32 percent increase from the previous year. 

In the upcoming fiscal year, Columbia will continue its concrete and culvert replacement projects as well as pavement striping.

A growing revenue line item in the budget is money taken in by the city through  the state’s cannabis tax. Columbia received $1,779 from the tax during the fiscal year ending in 2020 and expects an increase to totals of $8,368 and $10,107 for 2021 and 2022, respectively.

At Monday’s city council meeting, aldermen voted to authorize annual transfers from the capital development fund and garbage funds of the city to the general corporate fund in the amounts of $200,000 and $50,000.

The Columbia City Council will vote to approve the projected budget during a special meeting set for April 26.

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