Mayor Tomlinson: "We're living above our means, dozens of jobs m - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Mayor Tomlinson: "We're living above our means, dozens of jobs may be lost"

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Increased healthcare cost, decreasing tax revenue, and years of overspending have impacted the city's general fund according to Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson's Preliminary General Fund Projections.  Based on those projections Columbus is facing a $6.5 million deficit for fiscal year 2015.

"That means we have to make some serious decisions about living within the means of the revenue levels that we're currently taking in," Mayor Tomlinson says.

In an effort to curb drastic spending, the Mayor says very controversial changes need to be made. 

"If we can do it through eliminating services provided to our citizens, we can do it by eliminating programs, after school programs and things of that nature," Mayor Tomlinson said. 

Jobs are also at risk. For every $1 million spent over budget, roughly 20 city employee jobs could be lost according to the Mayor's Preliminary General Fund Projections for the year 2015.

"It's hard to know [which jobs will be cut]. We'll hear from our department heads. We've got 30 departments. Right now...they would have to be cut approximately 5 percent across the board. That would be completely devastating," Mayor Tomlinson said.

"I've proposed $4.5 million in reductions of administrative cost that I think could be eliminated with no impact to programs," says Mayor Tomlinson.

Out of four proposals, only one which saves $200,000 was passed. Some question how the city can afford new buildings, roundabouts, and attractions on the riverfront.

"I think that citizens get very confused about, well, 'Why are you building this bridge when we could be giving the employees a raise? Why are you building this ice rink when you could be paying for our insurance?'"

City officials say the zip line and other attractions on the river will not come from taxpayers' pockets. Council member David Arrington says the zip line will actually generate revenue. You can read about those plans here.

"One of the most recent [questions], 'Why are you paying for crime prevention grants, when you could be paying for insurance?' Well, even if we provided no crime prevention grants none of that money could be used to pay for insurance, raises, or other general fund expenditures because it's a different fund," Mayor Tomlinson says.

According to the mayor, Council has until the end of May 2014 to come up with a game plan or the tough decisions will need to be made.

You can view the mayor's financial outlook presentation here.

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