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Columbia City Council approves 2016 budget, rejects mayor’s plan

The Columbia City Council approved the budget for the next fiscal year, without Mayor Bob McDavid’s plan for extra funds towards public safety.

Mayor McDavid proposed moving $150,000 of the city council’s reserves into the public safety section of the budget, which includes police and fire departments. The Mayor wanted to use the money for “community policing” endeavors the department has strived to implement. Money would come from focus groups the city planned to hold on public safety in town and Columbia Access Television – $100,000 and $50,000 respectively.

Several people spoke at Monday’s meeting to oppose the defunding of CATV. Many cited it as an important cultural part of the city, allowing underserved people a creative outlet. Others saw it as a means of “economic development”, allowing people to hone skills related to video production and editing.

“We got a tendency of thinking that we know [young people] and think we can design things for them without them expressing themselves,” Lorenzo Lawson, head of Youth Empowerment Zone, said of CATV’s function to And I believe this is a great opportunity for them.”

Amy Roach, a sophomore digital filmmaking student at Stephens College, said the two-hour equipment course she took at CATV helped teach the skill set she learned her entire freshman year of school.

The FY2016 budget features 31 new full-time employees, including four new firefighters at the central city station on West Worley Street, and the addition of three civilian employees to the police department, taking over the roles of sworn officers, which allows those officers to work on other police duties, according to City Manager Mike Matthes.

Mayor McDavid’s plan did not receive a “second” at the meeting, which prompts a vote on issues the council handles.

McDavid proposed the plan at the September 8 city council meeting, citing no measurable way to know CATV’s effectiveness. Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser supported CATV because of the city’s current contract with the station, but hoped to see it self-sufficient by the contract’s end. She said CATV should compete with other arts organizations for public money, if they chose to do so.

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