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The original item was published from 8/28/2023 1:55:00 PM to 8/28/2023 3:29:02 PM.

News Flash

Columbus News

Posted on: August 28, 2023

[ARCHIVED] FROM THE MAYOR: Summer activities, City budget and looking ahead

Mayor2023 (3)

Columbus continues to be alive with activity.

It seems that everywhere you look there is something happening and people out and about. Enjoying an evening at the ballfields, a round of golf, a day at the Plunge, or an evening enjoying the entertainment in Frankfort Square.

Drive around Columbus and see everything that is going on.

The Columbus Community Hospital’s Fieldhouse is making great progress and certainly looks like it will be ready for a January 2024 opening. On the west edge of town, the Harrah’s casino is moving along with the same quick pace. And their opening is targeted for March of 2024.

With the building of our new Community Building and the city’s purchase of the old Rescue Mission building, the Rescue Mission used that revenue to help with their renovations of their new home at 1112 15th St. To many of us this was known as the old Morys Haven faculty. An open house was held on Aug. 11, where they served burgers, hotdogs, gave tours, and staff was on hand to meet the public. What an excellent facility that is truly needed in our community. God bless them for their service.

Closer to downtown, the Kramer Educational Center held its ribbon cutting on Aug. 24. It is so nice to see a structure that has played such a role in Columbus’s history — first as a high school and then a middle school — being remodeled and put to such good use. Early childhood education, day care, and administrative offices. Congratulations to Columbus Public Schools for a job well done!

And any tour of our community is not complete without a drive past our new Community Building. The public’s response and acceptance of this facility has been overwhelming. Lots of foot traffic utilizing the library, paying for city services, and visits to City Hall. And we expect that all of this traffic will increase as the public starts utilizing the community rooms for various events and projects.

Another successful Columbus Days is now in the books— Lights, Camera, Action. A week full of activities wrapped up with a full slate of events Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The evening parade, Frankfort Square full of people enjoying what was being presented on the bandstand, food trucks, beer garden, and evening entertainment. What more could you ask for?

Oh yes-the Sunday parade! What a way to wrap up a great week. Mother Nature tried to put a damper on things but the parade went on. I truly enjoy walking the parade route and saying hello to so many of you. A big shout out to the Chamber and all of the volunteers that step up and make this event the success that it is.

The city staff and Council are deep into the preparation of the 2023-24 fiscal city budget. This is a project that started months ago, and in reality, is an ongoing process. Countless hours go into the budget development. Every department reviews their needs and wants and then must walk those needs and wants though an approval process that consists of the City Administrator and then the City Council.

It is very important that this process get done correctly because we live by the budget that gets approved. Items approved and included in the budget then move forward when their time comes during the year. By contrast, items not included in the budget and brought forward later in the year, are scrutinized and if determined to be necessary another appropriate budget item would need to be eliminated from this year’s needs.

So you can imagine the effort that department heads put into making their needs justified. Revenues are estimated and with this estimate of income we can begin to get a look at what can be afforded and what cannot. With limited income priorities must be determined and hard decisions have to be made. Not everyone can get what everyone wants.

It is important that the public understand that this entire process is open and transparent. All these budget meetings are open to the public and have been publicly posted. There are multiple steps and public input is welcome at any of the steps. Along the way, if you are not able to attend a particular meeting, your Council member or myself is available to listen to your concern.

A couple of key items to understand as you try to wrap your hands around our budget.

The valuation that determines our tax base and therefore our levy is not given to us until Aug. 20. It is at that time when we will determine our levy that is necessary to handle the upcoming budget.

In 2023-24 we are forecasting income of $9,250,000 from our 1.5% sales tax. Of that amount the 1% represents $6,105,000 and is dedicated by law to go for capital improvements, aquatic center/plunge, and economic development. The other .05% sales tax represents $3,052,000 and can only be used for Public Safety and Library/Cultural Arts (Fire and Police bonds and Library/Community Building bonds and similar capital expenses).

It is very important that everyone understand the constraints that are on these dollars. Both of these voter-approved sales taxes (the 1% and the .05%) were approved overwhelmingly by the public and came with certain parameters that were specifically spelled out on the ballot question. I often hear “why don’t they use sales tax to pay for this or that.” The simple answer-you can’t! Personnel as an example, which represents the largest expenditure of our budget, is not covered by sales tax.

Another area of our budget is classified as our Enterprise Funds. Waste water, Water, Stormwater Utility, and Transfer Station. All of these operate from the funds that are collected by the fees that they charge. We work hard to keep the fees charged for services current so that these services are operated efficiently and profitably.

The budget process is a long and complicated process that involves all departments and many people and spans months in preparation. But it is the document that we live by for the upcoming fiscal year. It is important that we get it as right as we can. I will keep you posted as this process moves forward.

It is hard to believe that as you read this our kids have started school and summer is quickly ending. With fall comes eternal optimism. Good luck to the Vikings, the Discoverers, and the Shamrocks. And could this be the fall of the Huskers?

Something Good Columbus.

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