COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Columbia residents will have their first opportunity to comment in person on the fiscal 2023 budget at Monday night's city council meeting.
The Columbia City Council meets Monday for a pre-council work session at 5 p.m. and a regular council meeting at 7 p.m. On the agenda is the first in-person public comment on the budget for fiscal 2023, which starts Oct. 1. The agenda includes several scheduled appointments for city boards and discussions on a maintenance project for the city's water treatment plant.
The council, including newly sworn-in Third Ward Councilman Roy Lovelady, met Saturday for a special work session to hear the highlights of the budget for the first time. Monday will be the first time the council can start to introduce amendments.
Columbia residents can submit comments on the budget or any other city government items online at beheard.como.gov, the city's online public input platform. However, Monday will be the first time residents can directly address the council in person about any concerns with the proposed budget.
In the proposed budget, there is a $3.19 increase in the monthly water rate. There's no change to any other utilities. The city predicts the rise would bring in about $2 million more -- some of which would go toward the maintenance of the water treatment plant.
Julie Ryan, co-founder of the group Como Safe Water Coalition, spoke out on the rates during the meeting. Ryan said the city has pushed off the improvements the rates are needed for.
"Ten percent to account for years of negligence and failure is not fair to the ratepayer, especially when we're not getting a darn thing out of it," Ryan said. "We aren't getting the necessary improvements."
Another impassioned Columbia resident said he doesn't think the city should wait to implement the rate changes.
"When facing kind of the situation that we're in now, I don't think there's an economist or policy expert who does the cost of service studies that would tell us that we should let our cash go into the red because we need to do a cost of service study first," he said. "We need rate increases now and we needed them before now to kind of dig us out of the hole."
More public budget hearings are scheduled on Sept. 6 and Sept. 19. The first September city council meeting will be moved to Tuesday in observation of Labor Day.