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Columbia city manager proposes public safety improvements funded by use tax

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Millions from sales tax, including the newly passed use tax, could be used to improve public safety in Columbia, Columbia City Manager De'Carlon Seewood said during his budget presentation Thursday.

Seewood proposed over $5 million be used to build a new fire station in southwest Columbia, where the city is expanding in both size and population.

"The city is committed to funding positions of service using the revenues from the use tax, such as additional police, firefighters, road repairs and sidewalk maintenance," Seewood said. "All of which were included in this budget."

Interim Columbia Fire Chief Randy White said a larger population and growing city puts a strain on fire department resources.

"Basically, anytime the city grows both geographically and in population, you have a situation where geographically it takes us longer to get to a call from our existing stations, and population-wise, the volume of calls goes up so that puts a strain on all the existing companies," White said.

LINK: Proposed fiscal 2023 budget

Inflation has helped to boost city revenue but is also leading to greater expenses, Seewood said.

Seewood gave the annual city budget message Thursday morning at city hall, presenting a budget picture shaped by wider economic forces. The price of goods and services has risen steadily across the country, reaching highs not seen in 40 years.

Seewood said that has boosted the city's sales tax revenue but those gains have been offset by increased expenses. The city expects sales tax revenue to grow 7.5% in the current fiscal year with expenses jumping 10%.

The budget will likely slink back to more regular levels in the coming fiscal year, Seewood said, with fiscal 2023 revenue projected to increase about 2% and expenses trending 4% higher.

Seewood said he wants to give employees a 4% increase in the next fiscal year to help keep up with higher expenses for workers. The city's fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Inflation and economic pressures have also led to proposals for more social service funding, Seewood said. Many proposals are meant to address hunger and homelessness, including an overnight shelter for the homeless. Seewood said in response to a question that the current shelter at the Wabash bus station will not be that shelter.

The health department will also hire more staff using grant funds, he said.

The city plans to build a new fire station and add to the Columbia Police Department staff, as well.

Residents will have opportunities at future city council meetings to provide feedback about the proposed budget. Those meetings are scheduled for:

  • Monday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m.
  • Monday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m.

The city council is expected to vote on the budget proposal at its meeting scheduled for Sept. 19.

Residents will have the chance to view copies of the proposed budget at City Hall on Thursday.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia
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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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