Columbus proposes $2.4M budget with 1/2-cent fi re tax increase

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2017

COLUMBUS –The Town of Columbus is proposing a $2,409,598 budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, with no increases in property taxes and a .52-cent increase in the fi re department tax rate.

The Town of Columbus met May 18 and were presented the budget proposal from town manager Tim Barth and assistant fi nance officer Kathy Gregory.

The property tax is proposed to remain the same for the general fund at 35 cents.

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Last year the fire department asked for a one-cent tax increase but was granted a .52-cent tax increase. The fire department’s current tax rate is 7 cents so it will go to 7.52 cents next year, meaning the town’s total tax rate will be 42.52 cents.

Following Polk County’s recent property revaluation, Columbus’ new property tax value is projected at $114,721,000, which is $3,063,000 less than last year.

“Because the taxable base decreased, in order to be revenue neutral the town would have to be raised to 43.32 cents,” states Barth and Gregory’s budget draft overview. “Despite this the recommendation is to keep the rate at 42.52 cents.”

Columbus’ occupancy tax is expected to increase by about $2,000 next year because of the impact of the Tryon International Equestrian Center. The proposal next year is for Columbus to receive $27,000 in occupancy tax.

Columbus did not recommend the use of any money from the Powell Bill fund during the current year but is proposing to use $35,680 next year. The funds are from the state every year and are restricted to help the town resurface and improve town streets and sidewalks. Columbus plans next year to use $30,000 of Powell Bill funding for resurfacing and $5,680 as the street department’s share of a new diesel mower.

Columbus also plans to use $22,013 from its fund balance to make the annual payment on the police department expansion loan. Barth and Gregory said if the town’s fiscal year 2017-2018 revenues come in as expected and the town watches what it spends, it is likely the fund balance appropriation will not be needed for the debt service.

General fund expenditures for next year include no new positions for the town. Columbus staffed an additional police officer this year and the public works department reduced its number of staff from five positions to four positions.

Capital expenditures budgeted for next year include the new diesel lawn mower for the streets department. From the street maintenance account, $30,000 will be used for street resurfacing, of which, $22,000 will be used on Walker Street from Peniel Road to Paula Drive. Barth and Gregory said in the near future the town will need to consider resurfacing Ward Street but the town would like to wait until after the Polk County Sheriff’s Office moves before considering any improvements to Ward Street.

Other capital expenses include a new police vehicle for the police department. Half of the vehicle will be purchased with points the police department earns through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the other half, $17,500, will come from the town.

There are no increases proposed to water and sewer rates next year. Columbus is proposing to spend $15,000 to install two eight-inch gate valves in the water line and to install a four-inch flanged valve on the well house.

In the sewer department, the town normally has between $14,000 and $17,000 budgeted for regular lift station maintenance, while next year the town is budgeting $82,000. The increase in lift station maintenance will include $14,400 for regular maintenance and $67,600 to rebuild the BP lift station with new pumps, motors, control panels and labor to install.

Columbus’ new budget year will begin July 1. The town will hold a public hearing prior to adopting the new budget. Columbus’ next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 15.