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Armstrong Warns Against Misreading Columbus Budget Surplus

Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong

Photo: Daniel Robison

Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong says though it may seem like the city is flush with money, numbers can be deceiving.

Though Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong says his city is weathering the economic storm well, he’s cautioning against looking at the city’s bottom line in the wrong context during city council budget hearings.

The mayor is proposing a 4% raise for city employees – mostly, he said, because he thinks it’ll be the last pay increase for four or five years.  Armstrong says the city has had to lay off more than 100 people in the last few years, meaning the amount those raises dip into city coffers is considerably less than it might have been.

“We’ve prepared for this for the last 2 1/2 years, and that’s why we may be in a little better shape – not much, but a little better – shape than some cities,” he said.

Though the city budget will decrease about three percent overall, Armstrong said he does not anticipate adding to Columbus’s rainy day fund, which currently stands at about $3 million.

“That’s enough.  Because if we take more than that from the taxpayers, then we ought to be reducing some other things,” said the mayor.

Armstrong said the city spent about $4.5 million less than it planned during the last fiscal year, but he’s quick to point out that money can’t be spent on larger raises or on calling back workers, because it’ll be needed in the first few months of 2011 to pay the city’s bills, which exceed $2 million a month.

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