August is a busy month for city staff.
Much time has been spent putting together the budget needs of each department — setting spending priorities and looking at what is “needed” versus what is “nice." All of this is then presented to the city council though committee of the whole meetings. At these meetings the spending requests are presented, staff is available to justify the needs, and the council can ask whatever questions they might have regarding certain spending items.
This process allowed us to bring together a budget this year of approximately $75 million. This is all-inclusive in that all areas of city spending are covered. Building of viaducts, moving forward with public safety facility needs, continued expansion of wastewater needs, street repairs, lift station upgrades and so much more. We added five new employees — three to run Columbus Community Center, which we took over from Catholic Charities this year, a full-time fire chief and new technology employee.
All of this is possible without increasing our tax levy. Staff was able to maintain the current tax levy while still providing for the services mentioned above and many more items I didn’t mention. At the Sept. 5 city council meeting the budget along with the accompanying pay plan will be presented to the council for approval. Since the council is the same makeup as the committee of the whole, and they have reviewed these items, I would expect this budget to move forward without much fanfare.
This would be a good time to remind everyone that our budget is a working document. It is the blueprint we use to move forward during the year, but it is not absolute. There are times I think the public believes that once something is in the budget it is set in concrete — this is not the case. Capital spending items come before the council for approval, which gives the council and mayor a final review.
Let me take a moment to thank all of the staff who worked extremely hard to bring this budget together and watch spending, yet get what is needed to provide the necessary services to our citizens.
An item you will be hearing more and more about is our nuisance ordinance. The council has recognized that a huge impact on the enjoyment of the “quality of life” are nuisances.
Nuisances come in all shapes and sizes and affect people in many ways. One of the problems the city has faced over the years is the ability to enforce nuisance violations. Laws are vague and therefore enforcement can be hampered. We are in the process of trying to put some teeth into our ordinances so we can be more effective at enforcing them.
Along with this we are reorganizing by moving one of our CSTs (community service technician) from the police department and making them a part of the community development department. By bringing this responsibility into the department that handles building permits, zoning code issues, etc. we feel we will be better-equipped to address nuisances. This is new and it will take time for us to get things rolling. But your council is committed to getting better control/enforcement over these ongoing nuisances and making citizens feel better about their community.
One of the highlights of being mayor is that I get the opportunity to participate in many of the exciting events that are happening in Columbus. On Wednesday, I will be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the renovated Columbus Middle School (formerly the high school). I am looking forward to the opening of this facility that puts the final touches on the bond issue that built our new high school and allowed the renovation and move of our middle school. Congratulations to the Columbus Public Schools Board, CPS administration and all of the CPS staff who have worked to make this possible.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not give a shout-out to all those who helped make last weekend’s Columbus Days events such a success. Hours of planning go into making this event happen and hundreds of volunteers come forth and help. As always, it was a wonderful weekend and one that makes you proud to be part of our community. It's truly Something Good Columbus.