Columbus Budget Cuts Millions Over 10 Years

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Columbus officials Thursday announced what they call a comprehensive, 10-year-plan of government reforms and efficiencies. They say the plan will save the city between $100 million and $150 million over the next decade.

Starting with Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, one solemn-faced official after another gave similar assessments about Columbus finances. City auditor Hugh Dorrian put it this way:

“We are now in an unprecedented financial dilemma,” Dorrian said. “It is crisis time. It is real. It’s going to take us some time and some very, very firm action to right the ship.”

The mayor’s savings plan accepts many of the recommendations of his Economic Advisory Committee. Among the mayor’s recommendations:

The city should stop paying the employee’s share of retirement costs. That would have saved the city $30 million in 2008.

The city should increase the employee’s share for health care coverage.

It should discourage excessive overtime.

It should redeploy uniformed police and firefighters and train less expensive civilian workers to cover certain duties.

And it should continue with the city’s get green initiative that would include weatherization, more efficient lighting and upgrades to heating and air conditioning.

Mayor Coleman was joined by most of the city council and the leaders of several city departments for the plan’s announcement.

“We’re all here to say we must do better and we must do more,” Coleman said. “That’s required. That’s the change that we must have in city government.”

Coleman deferred talk about two other recommendations of his advisory committee: raising the city’s income tax rate and imposing a trash fee. Coleman said there would be more about the revenue side of the budget at a later date.