Columbus eyes cuts for 2011 Fab 4th

Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Town of Columbus still has no adopted budget for next fiscal year and is working to cut some items, including expenses for the 2011 Fabulous Fourth celebration.

Council held a meeting last Thursday and discussed in length what could be cut from the proposed budget in an attempt to eliminate a proposed two-cent tax increase. There was no discussion last week of eliminating a proposed 20 percent water and sewer rate increase from the budget.

Columbus set a special meeting for this Wednesday at 6 p.m. to finish discussing and to adopt the new budget, which begins July 1.

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Council has struggled to find further ways to cut the budget, but did come to a consensus to look at cutting future expenses for the 4th of July celebration for next year. The upcoming Fabulous Fourth will run as usual as most expenses have already been paid out of the current year budget.

Councilman Richard Hall posed the idea of cutting expenses for the festival, saying that it used to be run by the community with much less money. He spoke of $31,650 in expenses being too much for a small town festival.

Lets find a new way to do it, Hall said. Lets bring the churches back with the ice cream and get rid of the carnival atmosphere.

Hall suggested that the town could still run the festival, but cut out the entertainment and invite local muscicians to come and pick like the festival used to be.

This is the hard times right now, Hall said. This is like the 1930s. The 1950s will come back later.

Council directed assistant finance officer Kathy Gregory to make as many cuts from the 4th of July budget for the 2011 festival, as well as to make a 25 percent cut in the office supply budget for administration, which is currently at $9,000. Gregory and town attorney Bailey Nager also plan to negotiate with Zambelli, which contracts to do the Fabulous Fourth firework show, to try to get out of the next two years of the contract to eliminate future fireworks at the festival.

Gregory said shed be glad to go through the budget and make what cuts she can for next year, but let me tell you, this wont last forever. Were going to the well, speaking of the possibility of having to use fund balance to cover the budget.

Gregory was directed to cut the office supply budget, the fourth of July expenses for next year as well as Christmas display expenses and work on getting out of the firework contract for future years. Next months festival, to be held July 3, will have entertainment and fireworks.

Columbus current proposed budget is for a total of $1.063,597 at a 41 cent tax rate. The towns current tax rate is at 39 cents per $100 of valuation. Council also discussed last week how almost one cent of the tax increase is for the fire department, which the county approved. The county agreed to redistrict the fire service areas with Columbus fire department projected to receive over $31,000 less in revenue next year, so the county agreed to a 7/10 of a cent tax increase to make up the difference.

It is not clear if Columbus will increase its tax rate by one cent, two cents or remain at 39 cents and absorb the fire departments tax increase. Council agreed to decide the final details on Wednesday.

The water and sewer increases will likely stand as council and staff have said that the town received a letter from the N.C. Local Goverment Commission last year and expect a worse letter this year for dipping into fund blance to cover expenses in the enterprise fund. The town is looking at taking approximately $70,000 out of its enterprise fund balance to cover the current year overages for water and sewer.

The town has not definitely decided yet if that 20 percent increase will be across the board or accomplished by charging higher rates to commercial than residential. One proposal on the table is to increase commercial rates by 25 percent and residential rates by five percent.