Proposed budget to avoid deficit and layoffs, Columbus mayor say - WRBL

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Proposed budget to avoid deficit and layoffs, Columbus mayor says

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

The several-month long budget process has officially begun. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson proposed next fiscal year's budget on the heels of a nearly 6.5 million dollar deficit this year. She presented the budget to council at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“This budget I think was well received,” says Tomlinson ”That's not to say they're not going to peel back the layers and look underneath each one as they understand fully and make some adjustments.”

Colin Martin, Tomlinson's challenger for the upcoming election, says one of his concerns with the budget is the 1.5% cut proposed to all city departments, including public safety.

“Anytime we're cutting city services, which ultimately that's what we're going to do, concerns me,” said Martin. “She's also shifting that onto some of the other elected officials so they're the ones that have to make the tough decisions about what's cut.”

Tomlinson says the 1.5% cuts are manageable and confident that department heads will be able to find areas where they can make cuts without being forced to lay off employees. She also mentioned if public safety departments were exempt from cuts; it would result in other departments taking on the burden and having to cut about 8% percent instead.

“Every department can withstand a 1.5% cut,” said Tomlinson. “It's not going to be fun; no one likes to go in the opposite direction.”

Martin’s other main concern, also mainly because of public safety, is the overtime caps Tomlinson has proposed for both the Police Department and Sheriff’s Office. The proposed budget calls for the overtime budget to be set at $350,000 for both departments. Tomlinson says both departments could petition council for increases in overtime if necessary. She also called Martin’s criticisms a result of his unawareness of the process, saying she’s spent hours reviewing and putting together the budget with other city officials and there most likely will be some adjustments made during the budget review process by council.

Council plans to meet about 9 times over the next few months to discuss and adjust the budget. It must be passed before July 1st, the first day of Fiscal Year 2015.

The proposed budget also includes a half-percent pay hike for city employees to adjust for the rise of cost of living.

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David Hurst

David Hurst, a graduate of the Univ. of Georgia, is News 3's nightside reporter.
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