Columbia City Council votes to approve new budget, higher costs for taxpayers

Columbia City Council votes to approve new budget, higher costs for taxpayers

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia City Council voted to approve a 2017-2018 budget that will cost some taxpayers an additional $100 a year.

"For the first time in about 10 years, we've had a unanimous council to look at the problems to address the problems and not delay taking care of the problems that face the City of Columbia," said Councilman Howard Duvall.

That includes a property tax bump that will cost Columbia's average homeowner about $10 more a year. They'll do that by recapturing two mills they gave up a couple years back.

A millage rate is an amount per $1,000 used to calculate tax on properties. City Council says the change will increase revenue by close to $1.2 million. That will be directed towards public safety.

Next year's operating budget totals $329,857,239. About one-third is earmarked for the general fund while water and sewer and storm water capture almost half of the rest.

"We are not competitive with some local agencies that are taking our officers, and we need to be competitive to retain the trained officers for the City of Columbia," said Duvall.

Another focus for the '17-'18 budget is a massive commitment to improvements for water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure.

Those increases include a $5 stormwater fee increase along with a 4.75 percent increase to water and bills. Leaders within the Department of Utilities and Engineering have said those funds would support the department's Capital Improvement Program.

It's set to fund $40 million in improvements to the water system, $93 million in improvements for the storm water system and $80 million in wastewater improvements.

Utilities Communication Manager Victoria Kramer says projects to replace water pipes in the Booker Washington Heights and Earlwood neighborhoods are already in design.

New rates set in for taxpayers on July 1. Duvall says they should begin to see changes within the year. He believes a new commitment to public safety will be quickly evident within local law enforcement and first responder agencies.

From there water projects should begin popping up, and new high-tech water meters will be installed starting in 2018.

Copyright 2017 WIS. All rights reserved.