City officials are eyeing an $89 million budget

The City of Columbus is considering a preliminary budget of nearly $89 million for 2023, though there are likely to be adjustments before the Columbus City Council votes on the final document later this fall.

Council members took part in preliminary budget discussions on August 24 and 25. At that time, the City’s proposed budget for 2023 was $88,990,496. The 2022 budget, by comparison, was just under $84.5 million.

“There will most likely be adjustments between now and when you revisit this budget in October,” Chief Finance, Operations and Risk Officer Jamie Brinegar told City Council. “We have a few things we are still looking into.”

Brinegar said the city won’t have a proposed tax rate until the budget is complete. However, he said they hope to stay close to the 2022 rate, which is $1.1199 per $100 valuation.

One element of the city’s 2023 budget that should come as no surprise is that departments are setting aside more for fuel next year. The Columbus Fire Department has budgeted $17,000 for gasoline and $37,400 for diesel in 2022. CFD’s proposed budget for 2023, on the other hand, includes $27,000 for gasoline and $72,400 for diesel.

Additionally, the overall city budget for 2023 includes a 6% increase for civilian salaries and a 7.9% increase for sworn positions. Brinegar said this ties in with the results of a recent salary study.

The human resources department worked on recruiting and retaining employees. As a result, the city is considering changing its faithful service pay policy for civilian employees, although this is not yet included in the budget.

“Police and firefighters have longevity pay that is calculated annually as part of their salary,” Brinegar said. “For our civilian employees, currently, they don’t see pay for loyal service until 20 years. … We’ve looked at many communities across the state, and most of them are doing a five-year term, 10 years, 15 and 20 years. the year increases the reward for faithful service. We’ll be bringing that to you in the next few weeks, again, as we iron out what those dollar amounts would be. »

Currently, civilian employees receive a one-time payment on the 20th, 25th and 30th anniversaries of their employment with the city.

In addition to salary changes, Brinegar said the 2023 budget also includes new positions, such as a second code enforcement officer, People Trail maintenance worker, grants administrator and city comptroller.

Officials only budgeted for the controller position for a quarter of the year, with $31,250 earmarked for that purpose. This new role is part of the city’s move to “second class” status, which officially takes effect in 2024 and involves a number of changes to the structure of the City of Columbus.

Indiana’s code specifies that while third-class cities, such as Columbus, elect a clerk-treasurer, second-class cities elect a clerk. Both positions fill the role of City Clerk; however, the clerk-treasurer also serves as the city’s fiscal agent. In a second-class city, the fiscal officer is a municipal comptroller appointed by the mayor.

The 2023 budget also includes a section for US bailout funds, with $1.5 million budgeted for 2023. According to Brinegar, this includes $250,000 for grant expenditures, $250,000 for capital needs of the Department of Public Works and $1 million in capital projects for the Columbus. Department of Parks and Recreation.

The grant spending line is tied to the city’s partnership with Meridiam Infrastructure North American Corp., which has agreed to create a fiber-to-the-home network that officials say will reach at least 85% of Columbus.

Meridiam officials have said in the past that once the network is complete and service is available, eligible low-income residents will be able to use the Affordable Connectivity Program to receive free internet access.

“What we’d like to be able to do next is help connect fiber to the home,” Brinegar said. “And that subsidy over there will take care of that, that’s our plan. And that way for low-income people, then they can have that connection at no cost, with a monthly cost covered by the federal government.

Additionally, the Columbus City Council recently approved a tax abatement for Hoosier Networks LLC, which is owned by Meridiam. The abatement will save the company 95% in personal property taxes each year for 20 years on $28 million in new equipment for the project.

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