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Council OKs balanced FY 18 budget



Alex Holloway



Columbus City Council approved a $24.31 million budget for Fiscal Year 2018 during a special-called meeting on Tuesday afternoon. 


Councilmen approved the budget 5-0. Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones, whose sister works for the city, recused himself from the vote. 


The budget includes $24.31 million in both revenue and expenditures. In total, spending and revenue is up more than $1 million from Fiscal Year 2017's $23.26 million. Fiscal Year 2018 begins Oct. 1. 


The new budget also comes with a 3-mill tax hike. Councilmen first approved a 2-mill increase to generate revenue to address future needs, such as new public works vehicles, and more policemen and firefighters. The tax increase will also help pay for an across-the-board pay increase for city employees, which councilmen approved in August. 


Councilmen later approved an additional mill to fund a restoration project the Columbus Redevelopment Authority is facilitating in Burns Bottom. 


Mills are used to calculate property taxes. Ad valorem tax revenue is based on the assessed value of real and personal property. So, the value of one mill helps public entities, such as counties, cities and school districts, determine how many mills to levy in taxes each year.  


A person with a $100,000 home would pay an extra $60 per year in taxes with the 3-mill increase. That figure, however, does not account for Homestead exemptions. 


The city's millage rate rose to 46.69 mills, up from 43.69 in FY 2017. That total includes 35.72 mills for general revenue, operations and maintenance; 5.67 mills for the disability and relief fund for firemen and policemen; and 5.30 mills for general obligation bonds. 


The city will also levy 61.39 mills for the Columbus Municipal School District, which did not change from FY 2017. 


In all, the city will levy 108.08 mills for city and school district taxes. Councilmen set the millage rate at last Tuesday's meeting. 


City mills are valued at $192,000 for Fiscal Year 2018. A 2-mill tax increase would generate an extra $384,000. City millage last rose for Fiscal Year 2016. 




Library computers 


The council also unanimously approved $10,000 from the city's FY 2017 budget to help pay for new computers at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library. 


Library Board President Steve Rogers and Library System Director Erin Busbea went before the council to request the funding during Tuesday's meeting. 


Busbea said the library wants to move its computers into a computer lab, which she said would be better for library patrons and staff than having the computers in the middle of the library, as they currently are. 


"Right now we have 20 computers and they stay full up," Busbea said. "What we're wanting to do with this is create an actual computer lab and expand it to include up to 26 computers or possibly 30, depending on what funds will allow for, and also give them a more private area. People are coming in doing school work, personal finance stuff -- things that should not be out in the middle of the library floor where people are walking around, checking out books and stuff." 


Rogers said he also spoke to County Administrator Ralph Billingsley about funding, and Lowndes County will use funding from its FY 2018 budget to match the city's appropriation. 


"If you give us $10,000, the county will give us $10,000," Rogers said. "They will match it, dollar for dollar."




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