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Columbia mayoral candidates discuss how to handle budget

The candidates for Columbia’s mayor had different thoughts on the state of the city’s finances.

Chris Kelly, who’s challenging incumbent mayor Brian Treece, said the city’s budget could come unbalanced due to sales tax projections the city council made in September. Kelly claimed the city is lagging by 8 percent on its sales tax collections so far compared to last year. The issue is exacerbated, Kelly said, by the council forecasting just 1 percent less sales tax than the year before, rather than the city staff-recommended 2 percent drop.

“The mayor talks about steady leadership. There is nothing that goes to the heart of steady leadership that keeps money under control,” Kelly said.

The question of how to handle Columbia’s budget, and problems with sales tax, led off the debate at the Stoney Creek Inn on Thursday night. The council changed the forecast of sales tax after city data showed that they collected more sales tax than originally thought in the year prior. That money was used to budget for city worker pay raises and a future fire station.

Treece defended the move by pointing out that the state Department of Revenue had not yet remitted some sales tax to the city. The city is due for the last two months of sales tax revenue in April. Treece also pointed to the increase in sales tax revenue that Boone County projected for the change.

“We adjusted to 1 percent reduction in sales tax revenue because our colleagues at Boone County government were projecting a slight increase in sales tax revenue,” Treece said.

Data from the city’s website shows that this fiscal year, which started in October, Columbia has collected 43 percent of the revenue that it collected in all of last fiscal year.

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