Columbus budget proposal includes one-cent fire increase, employee raise options

Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Columbus Town Council recently began considering its fiscal year 2012-13 proposed budget, which includes a one-cent tax increase for its fire department but no increases in water and sewer rates.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners has to decide whether the Columbus Fire Department will receive the one-cent tax increase, so if the county declines the increase, Columbus will have no tax increases.
Columbus Town Manager Jonathan Kanipe presented his recommended budget to the town council Thursday, May 17. Council has a few options in terms of employee salary increases, ranging from one percent to four percent. A one percent increase would cost $6,908; a two percent increase would cost $13,814; a three percent increase would cost $20,721 and a four percent increase would cost $27,627.
Kanipe has recommended a four-percent increase for each full-time employee, saying the last salary increase was in September 2008.
“A four-percent increase would equate to a one-percent increase per year since that time, and remains below Social Security COLAs from that same time period,” Kanipe said.
The town gave each full-time employee a $1,000 bonus at the end of last fiscal year and Kanipe said a one-time bonus is another option for council at the end of the current year budget.
If council decides to implement a salary increase next fiscal year, the town will pay for general fund employees out of the fund balance, and funding for the water/sewer employees’ will come from the water/sewer contingency fund.
Next year’s budget proposal includes $66,409 in the water/sewer contingency fund. The town has another $33,585 budgeted in the water/sewer fund as debt reserve for the wastewater treatment plant rehabilitation.
Columbus’ budget is proposed at $2,016,750, with $924,445 coming from the general fund and $1,092,305 coming from the water/sewer fund.
The proposed tax rate would go from 39 cents per $100 of property valuation to 40 cents per $100 of property valuation if the county approves the fire budget increase. Of the 40 cents, 5 cents would be for fire service.
The town projects a decrease in assessed property value next year. One reason for the decrease is a drop in the value of the Laurelhurst/Laurelwoods retirement facility. Laurelhurst/Laurelwoods appealed the tax valuation to the state board of equalization and review and received a reduction.
The town’s total assessed property values decreased from $122,000,000 this year to $115,286,000 next year.
Motor vehicle assessed values have also decreased. Columbus is projecting a 10-percent reduction in motor vehicle values. The town expects to receive the same sales tax revenues as in this fiscal year, $176,000.
Council held a budget retreat this year and prioritized goals for the town, with next year’s budget focusing on those goals.
The highest priority was purchasing mobile data terminals (MDT) for police vehicles.  The town already made those purchases this fiscal year.
Other priorities included salary increases for employees, which could occur next fiscal year, and security improvements at the police department. The town’s public works staff is currently remodeling the interior of the building, with costs paid for out of this year’s budget.
Next year’s budget will take care of several other priorities named by council, including the purchase of a truck for the public works department. The town plans to purchase a Dodge Ram 3500 at a price of $30,000. The town is also considering using Powell Bill funding next year to take care of Gibson Street resurfacing and drainage repairs.
Other priorities are staff training for the police department and clerk. Town clerk Donna Butler is retiring next fiscal year, and next year’s budget also includes funding for necessary training.
Council has scheduled a budget work session for May 31 at 6 p.m.

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