Mayor Tomlinson discusses finances at public forum - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Mayor Tomlinson discusses finances at public forum

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

In the face of recent budget issues, Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has heard a lot of people asking questions such as, 'Why did the city spend money on new buildings?' and 'Why does the city appear to have money in other places if they're talking about cutting jobs?' 

Apparently it is more complicated than it appears.  

The only account with a projected deficit right now is called the General Fund. State law forbids the city from transferring funds out of any of its other accounts to make up the difference, so that is where the problem lies.

The city officials of Columbus may need to make some tough decisions in the near future regarding its spending. With the General Fund projected to be over budget by about $6.5 million, that is equivalent to the amount needed to keep approximately 120 people employed. 

The mayor has suggested cost cutting efforts by raising the rate that city employees pay for health insurance to avoid forcing departments to cut jobs altogether. This and other suggested measures will continue to be revisited and discussed by council over the next couple months.  

"The General Fund is what operates the city. It's what pays the employees, keeps the lights on so to speak. In years past we've tried not to raise certain fees, like garbage fees," said Tomlinson.

She explained that when the city needed to replace a large number of its old garbage trucks, the general public made it clear that they did not want to pay extra for service. That's just one of many examples of how the city is missing revenue over time. They predict they have only $146.2 million available to pay $152.7 million worth of bills if they take no action.

"Citizens of Columbus need to know, we have a great city, and there's a lot of vibrancy in this city. But we can't rest on our laurels. We do have to attack our challenges and come up with solutions to remain a strong city. That's what we're trying to do with the budget. It's not doomsday, but there are certainly some disturbing trends. We need to, and can deal with them, right now," said Tomlinson.

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