Mayor to present proposed $265 million budget

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson will present a fiscal 2016 city budget of approximately $265 million to Columbus Council Tuesday morning.

“This is going to be another tough budget year, obviously,” Tomlinson said. “But you’re not going to see the broad budget cuts that we’ve seen the last few years. That’s because we’ve already taken some of the tough steps already, such as worker’s compensation reform, insurance reform and pension reform.”

Tomlinson said the budget process is going to look at two broad areas of how the city spends its money and how it provides its services.

“We will be looking at two areas, where we might have duplicative services or duplicative funding and seeing about reallocating some of those assets,” Tomlinson said. “We will also look at areas where we might be providing an over-abundance of services and reallocating those assets as well.”

Tomlinson’s proposed budget for the current fiscal year was $263.1 million, which council bumped up to $263.6 million during budget hearings.

Budget Review Committee Chairman Skip Henderson said he has not seen a copy of the budget yet, but he expects it to be “austere.”

“I expect it to be a very well-crafted, austere budget,” Henderson said. “Like always, we will listen to department heads tell us about its impact on their operations, but it’s clear that this year, we can’t put anything on the add list without putting just as much on the delete list.”

The city is right at the 60-day reserve threshold that serves as a benchmark for bond rating companies. When a city dips below that, it risks having its bond rating, essentially its credit rating, lowered, increasing the cost of bond issues.

In past years, council has dipped into savings to maintain a balanced budget, which has whittled the reserves down from over 100 days of operations to right at the 60-day threshold.

Henderson said the transparent nature of the city’s budget process helps citizens and city workers see that there just isn’t much fat in the budget.

“It’s right there for them to see,” Henderson said. “All they have to do is tune in (to CCG-TV) and watch.”

Councilors will meet regularly as the Budget Review Committee between Tuesday and the last of June, at which time the budget must be approved and presented for the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.