City begins work of FY2014 budget

August 2, 2013 9:51:28 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


Columbus councilmen and the mayor held their first budget workshop Thursday at City Hall and learned the value of a mill is expected to remain at $170,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. 


A first draft of the budget presented councilmen with two scenarios: a requested budget and a suggested budget. In general terms, the requested budget represents essential needs while the suggested budget includes items that might not be essential, but desirable. 


Calculating the budget requests from the city's 20 departments, the requested budget would come in under projected revenue by $1,216,678.89. The city would need an additional $470,670.11 to balance the suggested budget. 


Expenditures through July 29 of the current fiscal year are $17,514,248.58, according to the draft. Total revenues are $18,970,948.55. 


There was no discussion on increasing the city's current millage rate of 40.13, which is more than twice that of Starkville, which has a comparable population. 


The mill rate is based on mill. Each mill is one-thousandth of a currency unit, one mill is equivalent to one-tenth of a cent or $0.001. Property tax in dollar terms is calculated by multiplying the assessed property value and the mill rate and dividing by 1,000. As a property may be subject to tax by a number of different authorities, mill rates are set by each taxing authority so as to meet the revenue projections in their budgets. 


Chief operations officer David Armstrong and chief financial officer Milton Rawle made adjustments to the first draft at the request of councilmen and department heads. 


The amount of sales tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal year was projected at $8.5 million, $150,000 less than the initial projection of $8,655,000 for the current fiscal year. Through July 29, the city reports sales tax revenues of $7,095,321.25. 


"Revenue is not a science. It's an art," Armstrong said. "We project the best we can. It's a good idea to be conservative." 


One notable change from the current budget is the city engineer position. The $150,000 figure for engineering services was reduced to $60,000, with the $90,000 remaining provided to the newly created project manager position. Councilmen voted to create the position and staff it with J5 Broaddus after the project managing firm submitted an unsolicited proposal. The council also opted to advertise for proposals from engineering firms instead of reappointing Neel-Schaffer to that post. 


Total requests for specific equipment amount to $1,863,478 in the proposed budget, which was edited as officials discussed the budget for each department although no have been deleted for the time being. 


Among those is a $45,000 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe for Mayor Robert Smith, the only equipment request in the administrative department. Smith currently drives a 2001 Escalade that came into the possession of the city via a drug bust. 


The council will hold another workshop 3 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. A special meeting to discuss four personnel issues is scheduled for Monday and will likely be held behind closed doors. The council will meet 5 p.m. Tuesday as well for its regular meeting at the municipal complex. 


See Monday's edition of The Dispatch for a recap of requests from each department.

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.