Politics
12:00 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Columbia City Council’s New Budget Draws People and Opinions

Columbia’s city council has passed the city’s annual budget for fiscal year 2012. KBIA’s Camille Phillips has this story on the impact.

Regular bus fares in Columbia are going up from one dollar to a $1.50. But the cost of a ride on Columbia Paratransit will remain at two dollars, thanks to a last minute amendment allotting around 29,000 dollars from the city council’s own reserve fund to paratransit. The proposed bus service reductions were mostly eliminated.

The opinions expressed during Monday night’s city council meeting were almost as numerous as the filled seats. So many people were there, in fact, that those left standing had to be asked to move to a spill-over room to stay within the fire code.

  • The largest single contingent was a group of more than 40 Columbia Water and Light employees represented by attorney Chris Hexter, who spoke on their behalf advocating for a higher wage increase than the 25 cent an hour across the board for all city employees the council approved.
  •  So just to say that there is a wage increase of 25 cents an hour is either bogus when you take into account the deductions and co-pays that the employees are going to be paying and it could even be worse over the next two years.
  • But most people seemed to be there to tell council members what they thought of the bus system changes included in the budget. Cheryl Price serves as a board member for the organization Services for Independent Living. She was one of more than 20 Columbia residents who weighed in on the issue.
  • I am concerned about those riders that are low income, people with disabilities and not disabilities. The increase of a dollar to a dollar-fifty doesn’t seem like much, but it is a lot to some people.”
  • In the end, council members voted to pass the city budget – leaving in the 25 cent raise across the board for city employees, increasing regular bus fare to a dollar-fifty and half bus fare to 75 cents from 50 cents. All those who had qualified for half fares previously will continue to qualify, except for students older than 18. Students 5 to 17 were originally going to have to pay full fare as well. A transit task force has been asked to help overhaul the bus system and create a separate student-centric bus service for fiscal year 2013. The budget goes into effect October first.