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City leaders discuss upcoming budget

Columbia city council members, mayor Bob McDavid and city manager Mike Matthes met at city hall Saturday to work on the upcoming 2016 fiscal year budget.

Leaders heard from several city departments including public transportation and community development.

The estimated budget allows the city to spend more than $441,000,000. The budget’s main focus would include the economy, social equity, public safety and infrastructures.

Karl Skala. 3rd Ward Councilman, said it’s all about managing a city that continues to grow.

“How fast do we grow, how fast should we grow and how do we accommodate that growth?” Skala said. “And frankly, the big question is, and I hope the task force addresses this, is how do we pay for this, because we’ve been struggling with this for years and years and years.”

Skala said he is interested in the idea of a new affordable housing development in central Columbia presented Saturday by the Department of Community Development. The $500,000 project would be built on Lynn Street.

“If we’re really going to put our money where our mouth is, in terms of social equity, we have to think about some of the areas that don’t necessarily deliver the number of voters, but certainly have a huge need in terms of the attention that they get from the city’s funds,” Skala said.

The upcoming fiscal year requires no new taxes and no increase in residential utilities. However, drivers could see an increase in city parking permits. City surface lot permits would increase to $5 per month and uncovered garage permits may increase to $10 per month.

Public safety was another focus of the budget. The upcoming budget could allow for the addition of four firefighters and three police civilian position including a Public Information Specialist, Crime Scene Investigator and Police Trainer.

Some council members would like to include a separate line to the budget for community policing events.

Council members have until the end of September to agree on a final budget. The 2016 fiscal year starts on October 1.

There will be two more public hearings on the budget during the upcoming city council meetings in September.

For a complete overview of the 2016 fiscal year budget, click here.

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