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Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong

Columbus is already formulating its budget for 2010, more than six months before the city council will first consider it. But Mayor Fred Armstrong says the city must find a way to fund city expenses despite the potential loss of millions of dollars in revenue from new property tax caps pass by last year’s General Assembly.

Last month, the Legislative Services Agency released estimates for how property tax caps passed will affect each city and county in the state. As to the confidence Armstrong places in the L-S-A’s estimates.

“None. I just don’t put any into it. It’s an estimate, that’s what it is. They’re going to give you what they feel is correct,” he said. “Last year, we got an estimate of $18,000 that we’re going to lose. Then it went up to $100,000. Then it went up to $833,000. Then it went up to $1.1 million, so who knows?”

Armstrong says the city brought in an independent financial advisor last year to calculate how the one percent caps for homeowners, two percent for businesses and three percent caps for rental properties will affect the city.

While the LSA says the city could lose one-point-six million by 2010, the independent advisor said the number is more like $3.6 million. Armstrong says he can’t explain the disparity between the two estimates.

“We’re looking at least 3.6 million, and maybe more. Jobs are not what they were seven, eight months ago,” he said. “We have to certainly have to look at the worst case scenario, and that’s what we’ll deal with.”

Armstrong says despite the strain the new caps place on the city’s budget, he supports them. But he says cities need more tools to be able to tax and charge user fees in order to pay for expenses. Armstrong made his comments on WFIU’s “Ask the Mayor” program.

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