At many of the forums and debates that I've attended, the city budget has come up as part of the discussion. Unfortunately due to the format of these events, there isn't always enough time for me to go into much detail about specifics. As citizens, you are entitled to see how your tax dollars are being spent. As a government, our city is required to report on the city finances on a regular basis. These reports have always been available on the city website, but as a convenience, I have included links below.
Click here to can find the recommended budget for FY 2018: Columbus, GA FY 2018 Budget
As you can see, almost 60% of the city budget is salaries and benefits for personnel; such as our public safety officers, our city workers, and our parks and recreation employees. The other 40% goes for utilities, maintenance, equipment, gas, and expenses for city services. Some of my opponents are promising easy fixes; across the board pay raises, new city facilities, and a broader list of "necessary" services. As you examine the budget closely I think you too will come to the conclusion that most of these promises just aren't financially feasible within the current budget. Not without eliminating some crucial employees or the services they provide.
Another common topic is the status of the OLOST funds which were approved by the citizens in 2009. The city government has provided a detailed report of those funds every month since the tax was approved. Click here for the latest report on the OLOST: March 2018 OLOST Report
Finally, I want to address the fund balance. Our city fund balance operates the same way that your family's savings account operates. It is essentially a "rainy day" fund. Thankfully back in 2007, our city operated with a 120 fund balance. As we all know, later that year our country endured the worst recession since the "Great Depression" and our city's investments lost money. To save personnel and continue to operate, we had to dip into the fund balance. We were very fortunate that we had taken such good care of our finances and that our city didn't face the same fate as many other similar cities in Georgia. The GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association), which provides best practices for federal, state, and local governments in the United States and Canada recommends that cities carry a 60 day fund balance. Our current fund balance is once again above 60 days and we continue to build that balance.
Some of the candidates would have you believe that our finances have been mishandled or questioned the integrity of our city government officials. The truth is, our city budget has been recognized by several third-party organizations including as a 2016 distinguished budget by the GFOA.