Public hearing on Columbus budget Thursday

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Columbus residents will have a chance on Thursday, June 16 to make comments regarding the town’s proposed budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1. 

A public hearing will be held during council’s regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at town hall.

There are no property tax increases proposed this year but a ½ cent increase for the fire department. The Columbus Fire Department requested a one-cent tax increase for next year, but the Polk County Board of Commissioners only granted the town ½ cent.

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There are also no increases proposed for the town’s water/sewer or garbage rates for next year.

Staffing has increased as the town recently hired an additional police officer and has changed the former administrative assistant position to utility billing clerk and increased the hours from 18 hours per week to a full-time position.

The additional police office is being funded by appropriating $23,545 from the federal seizure funds and another $20,000 from the town’s general fund budget. The police department will also be purchasing another vehicle, but that purchase is being made through the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program points.

Town council met in February for a budget retreat and prioritized what members wanted to see accomplished in next year’s budget. The top two priorities from the budget retreat were a grinder pump at the BP lift station and repairs to the Case Street pump station.

Normally, Columbus budgets $17,000 for regular lift station maintenance, but next year that line item is proposed to include $84,000. The lift station line item next year includes $17,000 for regular maintenance, $9,100 for a grinder pump, $2,900 for two heavy duty check valves, $35,000 for a new electrical control panel at the Case Street lift station and $20,000 for two new pumps at the BP lift station.

Another major capital expense for the town planned in the new budget is $39,000 for a new tractor, with half being budgeted in the water department and the other half budgeted in the sewer department.

Columbus is expecting a little more next year than this year in occupancy tax revenue because of the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). The town is budgeting to receive an additional $1,000 in occupancy tax next year, with projections at $226,000.

The town’s total tax rate, including the increase in the fire department, will be $42 cents per $100 of property valuation compared to this year’s $41.5 cents. Of the total, 35 cents is for the town’s general fund and 7 cents will be for the fire department. The fire department’s tax rate this year is 6.5 cents.

Council plans to adopt the budget Thursday following the public hearing.